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Bartholomew de Las Casas 

his life, apostolate, and 


With analytical index, photogravure portraits, holograph of 
Las Casas and folding map. 750 copies only, printed direct 
from type and the type distributed. One large volume, 8vo, 
512 pages, half silk cloth gilt, handmade paper sides, uncut, 
gilt top. 

Price $6.00 net 

reliable authorities on Spanish settlement in America 
in the Sixteenth Century. His writings display vast 
erudition and excellent powers of observation. 

Mr. MacNutt has given a lifetime study to the 
period of Spanish settlement in America, and to the 
interpretation of the quaint Spanish of the period. He ranks high as 
an authority. Much new material is given for the first time from the 
archives of Spain, Mexico, etc. 

An Authority. Not only modern writers have depended on Las 
Casas for their source of information but even his contemporaries, 
such as Herrera, have taken a large part of their material from the 
manuscripts of Las Casas and incorporated them in toto. 

As a Catholic Missionary, Las Casas fought the mercenary ex- 
plorers. For more than a half-century he was the central figure in 
the controversies arising from the Spanish exploitation. He was the 
great power with whom the mailed Spanish conquerors and eager 
treasure-seekers had to reckon. He was a born fighter, and he was 

English and Spanish Colonization compared. The volume is 
very illuminating in regard to the essential differences between Span- 
ish and English colonization in America. 

Spanish Cruelties. Las Casas, alone, has given us authentic 


accounts of Spanish enslavement of the natives, and of the brutal 
tortures and sufferings inflicted upon them. 

The Beginnings of Slavery in America. The discovery of 
America was followed very closely by the introduction of Negro 
slavery. While Spain probably holds the unenviable position of hav- 
ing introduced slavery into America, other contemporary colonizing 
nations have an equally black record. The beginnings thereof are 
here recorded. 

The volume throws much new light on the discoveries of Colum- 
bus, the aborigines, early Spanish colonies, the Jeronymite commis- 
sioners, Emigrants, disagreement with Diego, the Fate of the Col- 
onists, Colonization Laws, etc. 

Important Documents added. The Appendix contains for the 
first time complete and scholarly English translations of the follow- 
ing important documents : The Brevissima Relation de la Destruycion 
de las Indias; The Bull, Sublimis Deus; and the Royal Ordinances 
providing for the departure of Las Casas from Spain and for his 
representation in the Indies. 

"MacNutt's sumptuous edition of the Letters of Cortes has been followed 
by the present volume. This last is the most ambitious, for the major part 
(309 pages) consists of an original biography. . . Earlier editions appeared 
in different countries before the end of the seventeenth century. These were 
used with telling effect in the Protestant nations of Europe, to inculcate 
hatred and dread of Spain. The title of the English edition of 1698, Casas's 
Horrid Massacres, Butcheries, and Cruelties that Hell and Malice could 
invent, committed by the Spaniards in the West Indies is significant. There 
was plenty of room for a new and accurate translation aimed at an exact 
rendering of the author's meaning rather than an immediate political pur- 
pose. Such a translation Mr. MacNutt has given and for it he deserves 
our thanks." — Nation. 

"A sane and scholarly biography of Las Casas was badly needed, and 
much new material has been discovered, and many old verdicts have been 
revised since the appearance of Helps's Life of the Apostle of the Indies, 
more than forty years ago. Las Casas, as one of the modern historians has 
rightly said, was the Lloyd Garrison of Indian rights." — Athenaeum. 

"Handsomely made and beautifully illustrated. . . The book is in many 
ways so satisfactory that one lays it down with a distinct feeling of regret." 
— New York Evening Post. 

"Las Casas must be regarded as the best authority we could have from the 
Spanish standpoint." — Dial. 

"A keen and valuable observer, guided by practical sagacity and endowed 
with a certain genius." — H. H. Bancroft. 

The Arthur H. Clark Company 

Publishers , Cleveland, TT.fl A^ 
Publishers, Glendale, Calif., U. S. A. 

By Francis Augustus MacNutt 
Letters of Cortes 

The Five Letters of Relation from Fernando 
Cortes to the Emperor Charles V. Trans- 
lated and Edited with a Biographical Intro- 
duction and Notes Compiled from Original 

Two Volumes, 8vo. With Portraits in 
Photogravure and Maps. Limited to 750 
Sets, Printed from Type. Price, $10.00 
net. Carriage, 50 cents. 

Bartholomew de Las Casas 

His Life, His Apostolate, and His Writings,, 
8vo. Fully Illustrated. $3.50 net. 

In Preparation 

Fernando Cortes 

And His Conquest of Mexico 1485-1547. 
Crown 8vo. Heroes of the Nation Series. 
Fully Illustrated. $1.35 net. Half leather, 
gilt top. $1.60 net. 



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De Las Casas 

His Life, His Apostolate, and His Writings 


Francis Augustus MacNutt 

Translator and Editor of "The Letters of Cortes" 

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With Portraits and Map 

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G. P. Putnam's Sons 

New York and London 
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Copyright, 1909 



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Margaret Van Cortlandt Ogden 

this volume 

is affectionately dedicated 


THE controversies of which Bartholomew de Las 
Casas was, for more than half a century, the 
central figure no longer move us, for slavery, 
as a system, is dead and the claim of one race or 
class of men to hold property rights in the flesh 
and blood of another finds no defenders. We may 
study the events of his tempestuous life with serene 
and impartial temper, solely for the important light 
they throw on the history of human progress. 

It is sought in the present work to assign to the 
noblest Spaniard who ever landed in the western 
world, his true place among those great spirits who 
have defended and advanced the cause of just 
liberty, and, at the same time, to depict the con- 
ditions under which the curse of slavery was first 
introduced into North America. It in no degree 
lessens the glory of Las Casas to insist upon the 
historical fact that he was neither the first Spaniard 
to defend the liberty of the American Indians, nor 
was he alone in sustaining the struggle, to which the 
best years of a life that all but spanned a century 
were exclusively dedicated. 

Born in an age of both civil and religious despot- 
ism, his voice was incessantly raised in vindication 
of the inherent and inalienable right of every human 

v * Bartholomew de Las Casas 

being to the enjoyment of liberty. He was pre- 
eminently a man of action to whom nothing human 
was foreign, and whose gift of universal sympathy 
co-existed with an uncommon practical ability 
to devise corrective reforms that commanded the 
attention and won the approval of the foremost 
statesmen and moralists of his time. True, he also 
had a vision of Utopia, and his flights of imaginative 
altruism frequently elevated him so far above the 
realities of this world, that the incorrigible frailties 
of human nature seemed to vanish from his calcula- 
tions, but when the rude awakening came, he neither 
forsook the fight nor failed to profit by the bitter 

When his dream of an ideal colony, peopled by per- 
fect Christians labouring for the conversion of model 
Indians, adorned with primitive virtues, was dis- 
pelled, he girded his loins to meet his enemies with 
undiminished courage, on the battle-ground they 
theinselves had selected. His moral triumph was 
complete, and he issued from every encounter vic- 
torious. The fruits of his victories were not always 
immediate or satisfying, nor did he live to see the 
practical application of all his principles, yet the 
figure of this devoted champion of freedom stands 
on a pedestal of enduring fame, of which the founda- 
tions rest on the eternal homage of all lovers of 
justice and liberty, and it is the figure of a victor, 
who served God and loved his fellow-men. 

It will be seen in the following narrative, that 
monks of the Order of St. Dominic were the first 
to defend the liberty of the Indian and his moral 

Preface vii 

dignity as a reasonable being, endowed with free will 
and understanding. Associated in the popular 
conception with the foundation and extension of 
the Inquisition, the Dominicans may appear in a 
somewhat unfamiliar guise as torch-bearers of free- 
dom in the vanguard of Spanish colonial expansion 
in America, but such was the fact. History has 
made but scant and infrequent mention of these first 
obscure heroes, who faced obloquy and even risked 
starvation in the midst of irate colonists, whose 
avarice and brutality they fearlessly rebuked in the 
name of religion and humanity: they sank, after 
lives of self-immolation, into nameless graves, some- 
times falling victims to the blind violence of the 
very Indians whose cause they championed — proto- 
martyrs of liberty in the new world. 

The conditions under which Las Casas and his 
co-workers laboured were discouragingly adverse. 
The mailed conquerors and eager treasure-seekers 
who followed in the wake of Columbus were con- 
sumed by two ruthless passions — avarice and 

Avarice and ambition alone, however, do not 
adequately explain their undertakings, and we find 
among them a fierce zeal for Christian propaganda 
strikingly disproportionate to their fitness to ex- 
pound the doctrines or illustrate the virtues of the 
Christian religion. They seem to have frequently 
compounded for their sins of sensuality and their 
deeds of blood by championing the unity and purity 
of the faith — two things that were held to be of 
paramount importance, especially in Spain, where 

viii Bartholomew de Las Casas 

to be outside formal communion with the Church 
was to be either a Jew or a Mahometan, or in other 
words, an enemy of God. 

Perverted as their conception of the true spirit 
of Christian propaganda may appear to us, it may 
not be doubted that many of these men were ani- 
mated by honest missionary zeal and actually 
thought their singular methods would procure the 
conversion of the Indians. On the other hand, few 
of those who left Spain, animated by high motives, 
resisted the prevalent seductions of avarice and 
ambition, amidst conditions so singularly favourable 
to their gratification, and we find Las Casas denounc- 
ing, as ridiculous and hypocritical, the pretensions 
to solicitude for the spread of religion, under cover 
of which the colonists sought to obtain royal sanc- 
tion for the systems of slavery and serfage they had 

The essential differences observable in the Spanish 
and English colonies in America are traceable to 
the directly contrary systems of government pre- 
vailing at that time in the mother countries. All 
nations of Aryan stock possessed certain funda- 
mental features of government, inherited from a 
common origin. Climatic and geographical con- 
ditions operated with divers other influences to 
produce race characteristics, from which the several 
nations of modern Europe were gradually evolved. 
Within each of these nations, the inherited political 
principles common to all of them were unequally 
and diversely developed. The forms of political 
liberty continued to survive in Spain, but, under 

Preface ix 

Charles V., the government became, in practice, an 
absolute monarchy, the liberties of the Cortes and 
the Councils being gradually overshadowed by the 
ever-growing prerogatives of the Crown. 

In England, on the contrary, the share of the 
people in the government was, in spite of opposition, 
of steady growth, only interrupted by occasional 
periods of suspension, while the power of the Crown 
declined. These conditions were repeated in the 
colonies of the two nations, with some variations 
of form that were due to local influences in each of 
them. The Spanish colonies relied entirely on the 
Crown and were, from the outset, over-provided 
with royal officials from the grade of viceroy to 
that of policeman, and even with clergy, all of 
whom were appointed by the king's sole authority 
and were removable at his pleasure. These settle- 
ments generally owed their existence to private 
enterprise, having been founded by explorers and 
treasure-seekers, but in none of them did the colon- 
ists enjoy any political rights or liberties, other 
than what it pleased the sovereign to grant them. 

They were ruled through a bureaucracy, of which 
the members were rarely efficient and usually 
corrupt, hence it followed that Spaniards were 
bereft of every incentive to colonise, save one — their 
individual aggrandisement. Their inherited habit 
of obedience reconciled them to the absence of any 
share in the direction and control of the colony in 
which their lot was thrown, but such a system of 
colonial administration deprived them of the possi- 
bility of acquiring experience in the management 

x Bartholomew de Las Casas 

of public affairs. Its effects were pernicious and 
far-reaching, for when the colonies outgrew the 
bonds that linked them to Spain, their people, 
ignorant of the meaning of true liberty, and un- 
trained in self-government, followed their instinct 
of blind submission to direction from above, and 
fell an easy prey to demagogues. Deprived of 
participation in framing the laws, the colonists 
employed their ingenuity in devising means to 
evade or nullify those which they deemed obnoxious 
or contrary to their interests, and constant practice 
soon perfected their perverted activities in this 
direction, until obstruction and procrastination 
were erected into a system, against which even 
royal decrees were powerless. 

The results that followed were logical and in- 
evitable. Laws devoid of sufficient force to ensure 
their effective execution fail to afford the relief or 
protection their enactment designs to provide, and 
ineffectual laws are worse than no laws at all, for 
their defeat weakens the government that enacts 
them and tends to bring all law into contempt. 
Conditions of distance, the corruption of the colonial 
officials, the conflict between local authorities, and 
the astutely organised opposition of the colonists 
repeatedly thwarted the honest efforts of the home 
government to safeguard the liberty of the Indians, 
which the Spanish sovereigns had defined to be 
natural and inalienable,- — definitions that had re- 
ceived the solemn sanction of the Roman pontiffs. 

Spanish and English methods of dealing with the 
aboriginal tribes of America offer as sharp a contrast 

Preface xi 

as do their respective systems of colonial govern- 
ment. Whether the devil himself possesses ingenu- 
ity in inflicting suffering, superior to that displayed 
by the Spanish conquerors and their immediate fol- 
lowers, has never been demonstrated. The gentle, 
unresisting natives of the West Indian Islands, whose 
delicate constitutions incapacitated them to bear 
the heavy labours their masters exacted of them, 
were their first victims. The descriptions penned 
by Las Casas of the cruelties practised on these 
harmless creatures dispense me from the ungrate- 
ful task of attempting to depict them. But, while 
the individual Indian suffered inhuman tortures at 
the hands of the Spaniards, the race survived and, 
by amalgamation with the invaders, it continues to 
propagate, and to rise in the scale of humanity. 

The English colonists found different conditions 
awaiting them when they landed on the northern 
coasts of America, where the Indian tribes were 
neither gentle nor submissive. Two absolutely alien 
and hostile races faced one another, of which the 
higher professed small concern for the amelioration 
of the lower, while amalgamation was excluded by the 
mutual pride of race and the instinctive enmity that 
divided them. There was no enslaving of Indians, 
and the torturing was done entirely by the savages, 
but, while the English method spared the individual 
Indian the suffering his defenceless- brother in the 
south had to endure, the aboriginal races have 
everywhere receded before the relentless advance of 
our civilisation. The battle between the civilised 
and savage peoples has been uncompromising; the 

xii Bartholomew de Las Casas 

stronger of the Indian nations have gone down, 
fighting, while the remnants of such tribes as sur- 
vive remain herded on the ever-encroaching fron- 
tiers of a civilisation in which a tolerable place has 
been but tardily provided for them. We cannot 
escape the conclusion that our treatment of the races 
we have displaced and exterminated has been as 
systematically and remorselessly destructive as was 
the spasmodic and ofttimes sportive cruelty operated 
by the Spaniards. The Spanish national conscience 
recognised the obligation of civilising and Christian- 
ising the Indians, a task which Spaniards finally 
accomplished. The Spanish sovereigns were hon- 
estly desirous of protecting their new subjects, and 
the injustice inflicted on the latter was done in 
defiance of the laws they enacted, as well as of 
public opinion in Spain, which condemned it as 
severely as could the most advanced humanitarian 
sentiment of our own times. 

Las Casas voiced this condemnation and organised 
a masterly campaign of education on the subject 
of the proper method of dealing with the Indians. 
He suffered and endured for their sakes, while the 
men whose selfish and inhuman undertakings he 
thwarted poured the vilest abuse and calumny upon 
him. Nature had mercifully endowed him with no 
sensitiveness save for the sufferings of the oppressed, 
and he was as much a born fighter as the fiercest 
conqueror who ever landed in Spanish America. 
He waged a moral battle, animated by only the 
noblest motives, and in his damning arraignment of 
his countrymen, he eschewed personalities and, with 

Preface xiii 

a charity as rare as it was becoming to his sacerdotal 
character, he occupied himself exclusively with the 
principles at stake, leaving the punishment of the 
criminals to the final justice of God. 

The records of the earliest peoples of whom history 
preserves knowledge — Chaldeans, Egyptians, Pheni- 
cians, and Arabians — show that slavery has existed 
from the remotest antiquity. Slavery was the com- 
mon fate of prisoners of war in the time of Homer; 
Alexander sold the inhabitants of Thebes, and the 
Spartans reduced the entire population of Helos 
to servitude, so that Helot came to be synonymous 
with slave, while one of the laws inscribed on the 
Twelve Tables of Rome gave a creditor the right to 
sell an insolvent debtor into slavery to satisfy his 
claim. Wealthy Romans frequently possessed thou- 
sands of slaves, over whose lives and fortunes the 
owners were absolute masters. 

Christianity first taught the unity and equality 
of mankind; salvation was for bond and free, for 
Jew and Gentile; the immortality of each human 
soul was affirmed; each man's body was defined 
as the temple of the Holy Ghost and a new dignity 
was conferred by these novel doctrines on universal 
mankind, in which the lowly shared equally with 
the mighty. The Christian conception of liberty 
and equality, however, referred more to the moral 
and spiritual, than to the material order. ''The 
truth shall make you free." It was not subversive 
of existing mundane conditions, but taught the 
duty of rendering Caesar his due, and of the servant 
being subject to his lord, the woman to her husband, 

xiv Bartholomew de Las Casas 

and children to their parents. The early Christians 
too sincerely despised the prizes of this world — in- 
cluding the greatest of all, liberty- — to struggle for 
possession of any of them; unresponsive to the lure 
of earthly honours and treasures, they fixed their 
desires on things eternal. Slavery continued to co- 
exist with Christianity: children were sold publicly 
in the markets of Bristol during the reign of King 
Alfred, and the villeins were bound to the glebe, 
changing masters with the transfer of the property 
from one proprietor to another. The laws of 
Richard III. and of Edward VI. dealt severely, not 
only with slaves, but with all deserters, runaway 
apprentices, and other recalcitrant dependents, 
who were reduced to partial or perpetual slavery 
for the most trivial offences. The condition of 
these various categories of bondmen, however, was 
more one of serfage and vassalage, the ancient 
system of slavery that had culminated in the Roman 
Empire having been modified by the mild doctrines 
of Christianity and the gradual spread of the new 

From the discoveries along the west coast of 
Africa, made by the Portuguese in the first half of 
the fifteenth century, may be dated the revival 
of the trade in slaves for purely commercial pur- 
poses. Portugal and southern Spain were thence- 
forward regularly supplied with cargoes of negroes, 
numbering between seven and eight hundred 
yearly. The promoter of these expeditions was 
Prince Henry of Portugal, third son of John I. 
and Philippa, daughter of John Gaunt, though in 

Preface xv 

justice to that amiable and learned prince, it must 
be borne in mind that the capture and sale of 
negroes was merely incidental to explorations the 
primary purpose of which was purely scientific. 
Prince Henry held that the negroes thus captured 
and brought into his dominions were amply com- 
pensated for the loss of such uncertain liberty as they 
may have enjoyed, by receiving the light of Christian 
teaching. It seems evident that most of them merely 
exchanged masters and probably gained by the ex- 
change, for they were born subjects of barbarous 
rulers, in lands where the traffic in slaves was active. 
Many were obtained from the Arabs and Moors, who 
already held them in bondage and, without minimis- 
ing the sufferings inseparable from all slave-trade, 
we may not unreasonably assume that those who 
reached Portugal and Spain were the least unfor- 
tunate of all their kind. 

Las Casas, being a native of Andalusia, was 
familiar with this slave-trade, for Seville was well 
provided with domestic slaves, whose lot was not a 
particularly hard one. So much a matter of course 
was the presence of these negroes in Spain, that he 
admits he had never duly considered their condition 
or the manner of their capture and sale. It thus 
befell, as will be later described, that he assented 
to the demand of the Spanish colonists in the Indies 
for permission to import Africans from Spain to 
take the place of the rapidly perishing Indians. In 
his recommendation of this measure, several later 
historians pretended to discover the origin of negro 
slavery in America, despite the authenticated fact 

xvi Bartholomew de Las Casas 

that sixteen years before Las Casas advised the 
importation of negroes into the Indies, the slave- 
trade had been begun; nor is it unlikely that other 
negroes had been brought to America by their 
Spanish owners at a still earlier date. Although 
the original intention had been to import only 
Christian negroes, this provision of the law had been 
easily and persistently evaded, under the leniency 
and indifference of the authorities, who connived 
at such profitable violation. It was contended that 
the labour problem in the colonies admitted of no 
other solution; the inefficient Indians were rapidly 
disappearing, of white labour there was none, and, to 
respond to the demand for labourers, the Domini- 
can Order, in 1510, sanctioned the importation of 
negroes direct from Africa, still maintaining the 
proviso that all who were Jews or Mahometans 
should be excluded. 

Ovando had reported the Indians as so naturally 
indolent that no wages could induce them to work. 
He represented them as flying from contact with 
the Spaniards, leaving Queen Isabella to suppose 
that their avoidance was due to a natural antipathy 
to white men. The Queen, in her zeal to fulfil the 
conditions imposed on her conscience by the papal 
bull of donation, was easily tricked by the represent- 
ations of the Governor, coinciding as they did with 
those of other advisers of influence and high station, 
into assenting to the enforced labour of the Indians. 

Her reason is explicitly stated to be 'because 
we desire that the Indians should be converted to 
our holy catholic faith and should learn doctrine." 



For this motive, and with many restrictions as to 
the period of work and the kinds of labour to be 
performed by the natives, the gentle treatment to 
be shown them, and the wages to be paid them, the 
royal order was finally issued. It is evident that 
the misinformed and deluded sovereign regarded 
the labour of the Indians almost as a pretext for 
bringing them into contact with the Spaniards, 
solely for their own spiritual and moral advantage. 
The discovery of America, following as it did so 
closely upon the development of the negro slave 
traffic, had given great impetus to it and, during 
the three succeeding centuries, Portuguese, Italians, 
Spaniards, English, and Dutch quickly became 
close rivals for an ignominious primacy in the most 
heinous of crimes. The highest figures I have 
found, assign to England one hundred and thirty 
vessels engaged in the trade, and forty-two thousand 
negroes landed in the Americas during the year 
1786 from English ships. The annals of slavery are 
so uniformly black, that among all the nations there 
is not found one guiltless, to cast the first stone. 
More than their due proportion of obloquy has 
been visited upon the Spaniards for their part in the 
extension of slavery and for the offences against 
justice and humanity committed in the New World, 
almost as though they alone deserved the pillory. 
Consideration of the facts here briefly touched 
upon should serve to restrain and temper the con- 
demnation that irreflection has too often allowed 
us to heap exclusively upon them for their share 
in these great iniquities. If they were pitiless 

xviii Bartholomew de Las Casas 

towards individuals, we have shown ourselves 
merciless towards the race; as a nation, they recog- 
nised moral duties and responsibilities towards 
Indian peoples which our forefathers ignored or 
repudiated; the failure of the benevolent laws en- 
acted by Spanish sovereigns was chiefly due to the 
avarice and brutality of individuals, who were able 
to elude both the provisions of the law and the 
punishment their crimes merited. On the other 
hand, Las Casas thrilled two worlds with his de- 
nunciations of crimes which our own enlightened 
country continued for three centuries to protect. 
His apostolate was prompted, not by the horrors 
he witnessed nor by merely emotional sympathy, 
but by meditation on the fundamental principles of 
justice. The Scripture texts that startled him from 
the moral lethargy in which he had lived during 
eight years, revealed to him the blasphemy involved 
in the performance of acts of formal piety and works 
of benevolence, by men who degraded God's image 
in their fellow-men and sacrificed hecatombs of 
human victims to gratify their greed for riches. 

From the hour of his awakening, we follow him 
during sixty years of ceaseless activity such as few 
men have ever displayed. His vehemence tor- 
mented his adversaries beyond endurance, and they 
charged him with stirring up dissensions and strife 
in the colonies, ruining trade, discouraging emigra- 
tion to the Indies, and, by his importunate and 
reckless propaganda, with inciting the Indians to 
rebellion. Granting that some abuses existed, they 
argued that his methods for redressing them were 

Preface xix 

more pernicious than the evils themselves; prudent 
measures should be employed, not the radical and 
precipitate method of the fanatical friar, and time 
would gradually do the rest. Men who argued 
thus, such as the Bishop of Burgos and Lope Con- 
chillos, were large holders of encomienda properties, 
who objected to having their sources of income 
disturbed. Las Casas penetrated the flimsy dis- 
guise they sought to throw over their real purpose, 
which was to smother the truth the better to con- 
solidate and extend their interests, and realising 
that his only hope of success lay in keeping the sub- 
ject always to the front, he pursued his inexorable 
course of preaching, writing, journeying to America 
to impeach judges and excommunicate refractory 
colonists, and thence back again to Spain to publish 
his accusations broadcast and petition redress from 
the King and his Councils. 

The most respectable of his contemporary op- 
ponents in the New World was Toribio de Benevente, 
better known under his popular Indian name of 
Motolinia, In 1555, Motolinia wrote a letter to 
the Emperor in which he dealt severely with the 
accusations of Las Casas, whom he described 
as a restless, turbulent man, who wandered from 
one colony to another, provoking disturbances and 
scandals. He confined himself to a general de- 
nial of the alleged outrages, without attempting to 
refute them by presenting proofs of their falsity, 
while his indignation was prompted by his pa- 
triotism. He was shocked that a Spaniard should 
publish such accusations against his own country- 

xx Bartholomew de Las Casas 

men; things which would be read by foreigners 
and even by Indians, and thus bring reproach on 
the Spanish national honour. He expressed aston- 
ishment that the Emperor permitted the publica- 
tion and circulation of such books, taxing their 
author with wilful exaggeration and false statements, 
and pointing out that the accusations brought more 
dishonour on the monarch than on his subjects. 

Motolinia was a devout man, whose apostolic 
life among the Indians won him his dearly loved 
name, equivalent to "the poor man" or poverello of 
St. Francis, but with all his virtues, he belonged to 
the type of churchman that dreads scandal above 
everything else. The methods of Las Casas scanda- 
lised him ; it wounded his patriotism that Spaniards 
should be held up to the execration of Christendom, 
and he rightly apprehended that such damaging 
information, published broadcast, would serve as a 
formidable weapon in the hands of the adversaries 
of his church and country. It must also be remem- 
bered that he lived in Mexico, where Las Casas ad- 
mits that the condition of the Indians was better 
than in the islands and other parts of the coast 

The Bishop of Burgos and Lope Conchillos will be 
seen to be fair exponents of the bureaucratic type of 
opponents to the reforms Las Casas advocated. 
The Bishop in particular appears in an unsym- 
pathetic light throughout his long administration of 
American affairs. Of choleric temper, his manners 
were aggressive and authoritative, and he used his 
high position to advance his private interests. He 

Preface xxi 

was a disciplinarian, a bureaucrat averse to novel- 
ties and hostile to enthusiasms. He anticipated 
Talleyrand's maxim "Sdrtout pas de zele," and to 
be nagged at by a meddlesome friar was intolera- 
ble to him. Such men were probably no more 
consciously inhuman than many otherwise irre- 
proachable people of all times, who complacently 
pocket dividends from deadly industries, without 
giving a thought to the obscure producers of their 
wealth or to the conditions of moral and physical 
degradation amidst which their brief lives are 

The most formidable of all the adversaries of Las 
Casas was Gines de Sepulveda. A man of acute 
intellect, vast learning, and superlative eloquence, 
this practised debater stood for theocracy and 
despotism, defending the papal and royal claims to 
jurisdiction over the New World. In striving to 
establish a dual tyranny over the souls and bodies of 
its inhabitants, he concerned himself not at all with 
the human aspect of the question nor did he even 
pretend to controvert the facts with which his op- 
ponent met him. He was exclusively engaged in 
upholding the abstract right of the Pope and the 
Spanish sovereigns to exercise spiritual and temporal 
jurisdiction over heathen, as well as Catholic peoples. 
To impugn this principle was, according to Sepul- 
veda, to strike at the very foundations of Christen- 
dom; that a few thousands of pagans, more or less, 
suffered and perished, was of small importance, 
compared with the maintenance of this elemental 
principle. First conquer and then convert, was 

xxii Bartholomew de Las Casas 

his maxim. His thesis constitutes the very negation 
of Christianity. 

Las Casas repeatedly challenged his opponents 
to refute his allegations or to contradict his facts and, 
in a letter to Carranza de Miranda in 1556, he wrote: 

" It is moreover deplorable that, after having denounced 
this destruction of peoples to our sovereigns and their 
councils a thousand times during forty years, nobody 
has yet dreamed of proving the contrary and, after 
having done so, of punishing me by the shame of a 
retraction. The royal archives are filled with records 
of trials, reports, denunciations, and a quantity of 
other proofs of the assassinations. . . . There 
exists also positive evidence of the immense population 
of Hispaniola — greater than that of all Spain — and of 
the islands of Cuba, Jamaica, and more than forty 
other islands, where neither animals nor vegetation 
survive. These countries are larger than the space 
that separates us from Persia, and the terra-firma is 
twice as considerable. ... I defy any living man, 
if he be not a fool, to dare deny what I allege, and to 
prove the contrary." 

His enemies were devoid of scruples, and un- 
sparingly used every means to nullify his influence 
and destroy his credit. He was ridiculed as a 
madman — a monomaniac on the subject of Indians 
and their rights ; his plainly stated facts were branded 
as exaggerations, though nobody accepted his 
challenge to contradict them. Such tactics alter- 
nated with others, for he was also described as a 
heretic, as disloyal and unpatriotic, seeking to 
impeach the validity of Spanish sovereignty in 



the Indies and to bring ruin on the national 

The missionary period of the life of Las Casas in 
America ended with his return to Spain in 1549 
and the resignation of his episcopal see that followed 
in 1552. From that time may be dated the third 
and last period of his life, which was marked by his 
prodigious literary activity, for, though he never 
again visited America, his vigilance and energy in 
defending the interests of the Indians underwent 
no diminution. His writings were extraordinarily 
voluminous; and all he wrote treated of but one 
subject. He himself declared that his sole reason 
for writing more than two thousand pages in Latin 
and Spanish was to proclaim the truth concerning 
the American Indians, who were defamed by being 
represented as devoid of human understanding and 
no better than brutes. This defamation of an entire 
race outraged his sense of justice, and the very 
excesses of the colonists provoked the reaction that 
was destined to ultimately check them. 

Of all his numerous works the two that are of 
great and permanent interest to students of Ameri- 
can history, the Historia General and the Historia 
Apologetica de las Indias, were originally designed 
to form a single work. The writer informs us 
that be began this work in 1527 while he resided 
in the Dominican monastery near Puerto de Plata. 

Fabie notes that his examination of the original 
manuscripts of the two works preserved in the 
library of the Spanish Academy of History in 
Madrid, shows that the first chapter of the A polo- 

xxiv Bartholomew de Las Casas 

get tea was originally the fifty-eighth of the Historia 
General. Prescott possessed a copy of these manu- 
scripts, which is believed to have been burned in 
Boston in 1872, and other copies still exist in America 
in the Congressional and Lenox Libraries, and in 
the Hubert Howe Bancroft collection. 

During his constant journeying to and fro, much 
of the material Las Casas had collected for the 
Historia General was lost and when he began to 
put that work into its actual form — probably in 1552 
or 1553 — he was obliged to rely on his memory 
for many of his facts, while others were drawn from 
the Historia del Almirante, Don Cristobal Colon, 
written by the son of Christopher Columbus, Fer- 

The first historian who had access to the original 
manuscript, in spite of the instruction of Las Casas 
to his executors to withhold them from publication 
for a period of forty years after his death, was 
Herrera, who dipped plenis manibus into their 
contents, incorporating entire chapters in his own 
work published in 1601. His book obtained a 
wide circulation despite the fact that it was pro- 
hibited in Spain. 

It was not until 187 5-1 876 that a complete edition 
of the Historia General and the Apologetica was 
printed in Spanish. This work was edited in five 
volumes by the Marques de la Fuensanta and Senor 
Jose Sancho Rayon, and was issued by the Royal 
Academy of History in Madrid. A Mexican edition 
of the Historia General in two volumes, but without 
the Apologetica, appeared in 1878. 

Preface xxv 

The Historia Apologetica treats of the natural 
history, the climate, the flora, fauna, and various 
products of the Indies, as well as of the different 
races inhabiting the several countries; their char- 
acter, costumes, habits, and forms of government. 
Though its purpose bore less directly upon the 
abuses and injustices under which the natives 
suffered, it was none the less educational, the author's 
purpose being to put before his countrymen a 
minute and accurate description of the New World 
and its inhabitants that should vindicate the latter' s 
right to equitable treatment at the hands of their 
invaders and conquerors. Misrepresented and de- 
famed, as he maintained the Indians were, by the 
interested and mendacious reports sent to Spain, 
Las Casas composed this interesting apology as 
one part of his scheme of defence. As a monument 
to his vast erudition, his powers of observation, and 
his talents as a writer, the Apologetica is perhaps the 
most remarkable of all his compositions. 

I append to this present volume an English 
translation of the most celebrated of all the writings 
of Las Casas; that is, of the short treatise published 
in 1552 in Seville under the title of Brevissima 
Relation de la Destruycion de las Indias, and which 
recited in brief form his accusations against the 
conquerors and his descriptions of the cruelties 
that formed the groundwork of all his writings. 

This was the first of nine tracts, all treating dif- 
ferent aspects of the same subject. The full 
titles of these little books, of which a complete set 
is now extremely valuable, may be found in Henry 

xxvi Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Harrisse, Notes on Columbus, pp. 18-24 ; also in 
Brunet's Manuel, the Carter-Brown Catalogue, and 
other bibliographical works. 

The first quarto gothic edition, printed by Tru- 
jillo in Seville in 1552, entitled Las Obras Brevissima 
Relacion de la Destruycion de las Indias Occidentals 
por los Espanoles, contains seven tracts. The 
second edition, in Barcelona, 1646, bore the title 
Las Obras de B. de Las Casas, and contains the first 
five tracts. 

The Brevissima Relacion was quickly translated 
into most of the languages of Europe. A French 
version, published in Antwerp in 1579, was entitled 
Tyrannies et Cruautes des Espagnols, par Jacques de 
Miggrode. Le Miroir de la tyrannie Espagnole, 
illustrated by seventeen horribly realistic engravings 
by De Bry, contains extracts from several of the nine 
treatises, composed into one work, issued in Am- 
sterdam in 1620. Other editions followed in Paris in 
1635, in Lyons in 1642, and again two others in Paris 
in 1697 and 1701: these latter were translated and 
edited by the Abbe de Bellegarde. 

The Italian translation, made by Giacomo Cas- 
tellani, followed closely the original text, by which 
it was accompanied ; editions were printed in Venice 
in 1626, 1630, and 1643, bearing the title Istoria o 
Brevissima Relatione delta Distruttione dell Indie 
Occidentali. Three different Latin versions were 
published as follows: Narratio regionum Indicarum 
per Hispanos quosdam devastatarum Verissima, per 
B. Casaum, Anno 1582; Hispanice, anno vero hoc 
Latine excusa, Francofurti, 1597 '■> Regionum In- 

Preface xxvii 

dicarum per Hispanos olim devastatarum accuratissima 
descriptio. Editio nova, correctior. . . . Heidelbergas 

Despite the fact that Las Casas was the first and 
most vehement in denouncing the Spanish con- 
querors as bad patriots and worse Christians, whose 
acts outraged religion and disgraced Spain, his 
evidence against his countrymen was diligently 
spread by all enemies of his country, especially in 
England and the Netherlands, while Protestant 
controversialists quoted him against popery, and 
discovered in the conduct of the conquerors the 
evidences of Catholic depravity. 

The earliest English edition was printed in 1583 
under the title of The Spanish Colonie or Brieje 
Chronicle of the Acts and Gestes of the Spaniardes in 
the West Indies, called the Newe Worlde, for a space of 
XL Yeares. 

In 1656, John Phillips, who was a nephew of 
Milton, dedicated another version, called The Tears 
of the Indians, to Oliver Cromwell. 

Other English editions, bearing different names, 
appeared in 1614, 1656, and 1689. This last 
volume bore a truly startling title: Casas' s horrid 
Massacres, Butcheries and Cruelties that Hell and 
Malice could invent, committed by the Spaniards 
in the West Indies. It doubtless had a large 

Ten years later another edition was printed in 
London: An Account of the Voyages and Discoveries 
made by the Spaniards in America, containing the 
most exact Relation hitherto published of their unpa- 

xxviii Bartholomew de Las Casas 

ralleled cruelties on the Indians in the Destruction of 
about Forty Millions of People. 

The Netherlands being in revolt, both against 
the Catholic religion and the Spanish government, 
it is not surprising to find that, in addition to the 
French editions published in Amsterdam and Ant- 
werp, no less than six different versions were cir- 
culated in the Flemish and Dutch vernaculars, as 
follows: Seer cort Verhael van de destructie van 
d' Indien, etc., Bruselas, 1578. Spieghel der Spaen- 
scher tyranny e, in West Indien, etc., Amstelredam, 
1596. Another edition of the same followed in the 
same year and another in 1607. Den Spiegel van de 
Spaensche Tyrannie, etc., Amstelredam, 1609. Sec- 
ond edition of the same work in 1621. 

A German translation entitled Umstdndige Wahr- 
hafftige Beschreibung der Indianischen Ldndern, 
etc., was published at Frankfurt-am-Main, in 1645. 

It seems hardly necessary, otherwise than as a 
matter of quaint chronicle, to notice the fantastic 
attempt of the Neapolitan writer, Roselli, to prove 
that the Brevissima Relacion was not written by Las 
Casas, but was composed years later by an un- 
known Frenchman. This suggestion was too agree- 
able to Spanish susceptibilities to lack approval 
in Spain when it was first advanced, but it has since 
been consigned by general consent to the limbo of 
fanciful inventions. 

The limits of the present volume exclude the 
possibility of dealing adequately with a life so fertile 
in effort, so rich in achievement, as that of Las 
Casas, and I have confined myself to composing, 

Preface xxix 

from an immense mass of material, a brief narra- 
tive of the acts and events that seem to best il- 
lustrate his character and to establish his claim to a 
foremost place among the great moral heroes of the 

I have drawn largely upon his own works, and by 
frequent and ample quotations from his speeches 
and letters, I have sought to reveal my hero more 
intimately to my readers. In reluctantly quitting 
this field of profitable research, I confidently 
promise myself the satisfaction of one day seeing 
our national literature enriched by an abler present- 
ation of this great theme than I have felt myself 

prepared to undertake. 

Francis A. MacNutt. 

Schloss Ratzotz, Tirol, 
June, 1908. 


Principal authorities consulted in the preparation of 
this work: 

Antonio de Remesal, Historia de la Provincia de San Vicente 
de Chyapa, 1619. 

Davila Padilla, Historia de la Fundacion, etc., 1625. 

Antonio de Herrera, Historia General de las Indias Oc- 
cidentals, 1 60 1. 

Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes (in Ramusio). 

Motolinia, in volume i. of Icazbalceta's Documentos Ineditos. 

Juan de Torquemada, Monarquia Indiana, 1614. 

Agostino de Vetancourt, Teatro Mexicano, 1698. 

Fray Domingo Marquez, Sacro Diario Dominicano, 1697. 

J. A. Llorente, CEuvres de Las Casas, 1822. 

Jose Antonio Saco, Historia de la Esclavitud, 1875-78. 

Manuel Jose Quintana, Vidas de Espanoles Celebres, 1845. 

Carlos Gutierrez, Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, sus Tiempos 
y su Apostolado, 1878. 

Antonio Maria Fabie, Vida y Escritos de Don Fray Barto- 
lome de Las Casas, 1879. 

Sir Arthur Helps, The Spanish Conquest in America. 

Henry Stevens, The New Laws of the Indies, 1893. 

Aristotle, Politics (Canon Weldon's translation.) 

William Robertson, History of America. History of Charles 

Flechier, Vie de Ximenez. 

Marsollier, Vie de Ximenez. 

Baudier, Histoire de Ximenez. 

Henry Harrisse, Notes on Columbus. 

Justin Winsor's Narrative and Critical History of America. 

John Boyd Thacher's Christopher Columbus. 




Preface ........ v 


Family of Las Casas. Education of Barthol- 
omew. His First Voyage to America . i 


The Discoveries of Columbus. Character of 
the American Indian. The Beginnings 
of Slavery and the Slave Trade . . 12 


The Colony of Hispaniola. Arrival of Las 

Casas. Condition of the Colonists . . 31 


The Dominicans in Hispaniola. The Ordina- 
tion of Las Casas. The Conquest of Cuba 40 


The Sermons of Fray Antonio de Montesinos. 
The Awakening of Las Casas. Pedro de 
La Renteria ...... 53 


Las Casas Returns to Spain. Negotiations. 
Cardinal Ximenez de Cisneros. The Jero- 
nymite Commissioners . ... -67 


xxxiv Contents 


PAG 3 

Las Casas and Charles V. The Grand Chancel- 
lor. Negro Slavery. Events at Court . 92 


Monsieur de Laxao. Colonisation Projects'. 

Recruiting Emigrants .... 112 


Knights of the Golden Spur. The Court 

Preachers. Further Controversies . 120 


The Bishop of Darien. Debate with Las 
Casas. Disagreement with Diego Colum- 
bus ........ 140 


Royal Grant to Las Casas. The Pearl Coast. 
Las Casas in Hispaniola. Formation of a 
Company . . . . . . .150 


The Ideal Colony. Fate of the Colonists. 

Failure of the Enterprise . . . 162 


Profession of Las Casas. The Catique En- 
rique. Journeys of Las Casas. A Peace- 
ful Victory . . . . . .174 


The Land of War. Bull of Paul III. Las 

Casas in Spain. The New Laws . .190 

Contents xxxv 



The Bishoprics Offered to Las Casas. His 

Consecration. His Departure . .211 


Letter to Philip II. Voyage to America. 
Feeling in the Colonies. ' Arrival in 
Chiapa . . . . . . .222 


Reception of Las Casas in his Diocese. Events 

in Ciudad Real. The Indians of Chiapa 237 


Las Casas Revisits the Land of War. Audi- 
encia of the confines. events at cludad 
Real. Las Casas Returns . . . 252 


Opposition to Las Casas. He Leaves Ciudad 

Real. The Mexican Synod . . . 264 


Las Casas Arrives at Valladolid. The Thirty 
Propositions. Debate with Gines de 
Sepulveda ...... 277 


San Gregorio de Valladolid. Last Labours. 

The Death of Las Casas .... 294 

The Brevissima Relacion . . . .311 

xxxvi Contents 



The Bull Sublimis Deus ..... 426 


Royal Ordinances Providing for the Depart- 
ure of Las Casas from Spain and for His 
Reception in the Indies .... 432 

Index ........ 451 



Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas . Frontispiece 

From the portrait drawn and engraved by 

Christopher Columbus . . . . -32 

From an engraving by P. Mercuri after a con- 
temporary portrait. 

Cardinal Ximenez de Cisneros ... 68 

From a relief preserved in the Universidad 
Central. Photo by J. Laurent & Co., Madrid 

Charles V. . . . . . . .114 

From an engraving by Ferdinand Selma, 
made in 1778 after the portrait by Titian. 

Adrian VI. ....... 152 

From an old Italian print. 

Map Showing the Scenes of the Labours 

of Las Casas . . . . . .164 

Paul III. ....... 192 

From an engraving by Vincenzo Crispino after 
the portrait by Titian. 

Philip II. ...... . 224 

From a photograph of the original portrait by 
Pantoja in the Prado Museum. 


xxxviii Illustrations 


Juan Gines de Sepulveda .... 278 

From the engraving by J. Barcelon, after the 
drawing of J. Maca. 

Holograph of Las Casas .... 296 

Bartholomew De Las Casas. 


I Please do not v in this 
book or turn down the pages 

Id | BUM 

Bartholomew de Las Casas 



THE Spanish wars against the Moors, no less 
than the Crusades against the Moslems in the 
Holy Land, enlisted under the Christian 
standard the chivalry of Europe, and during the 
victorious campaign of the King, St. Ferdinand, 
knights from France, Germany, Italy, and Flanders 
swelled the ranks of the Spanish forces in Andalusia. 
Amongst these foreign noblemen were two French 
gentlemen called Casaus, who claimed descent from 
Guillen, Viscount of Limoges, one of whom was 
killed during the siege of Seville. The city was 
taken in 1252, and the surviving Casaus shared 
in the apportionment of its spoils, and founded 
there a family, whose descendants were destined 
to become numerous and illustrious. The name 
Casaus assumed with time the more Spanish form 
of Casas, though it continued to be spelled in both 
ways for several centuries, and Bartholomew de 

Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Las Casas himself used both spellings indifferently, 
especially during the earlier years of his life. 

This family ranked among the nobility of 
Seville and mention is found of the confirmation by 
Alfonso XL of Guillen de Las Casas in the office 
of regidor of the city in 131 8. This same Guillen 
became Alcalde Mayor of Seville, and when he died 
his body was buried in one of the chapels of the 
cathedral. His son, Alfonso, is stated in the chron- 
icles of Don Juan II. (1409) to have been appointed 
by the Infante, Don Fernando, to the lieutenancy of 
Castillo de Priego, "because he was a valiant man 
who could hold it well." The names of Guillen 
and Bartolome are of frequent recurrence in the 
annals of the family, whose members constantly 
occupied the honourable offices of judge, alcalde 
mayor, and captain, using the title of Don and 
intermarrying with the most illustrious families 
of Andalusia. 

According to indications equivalent to proofs 
in the absence of any positive record, from such 
respectable forebears descended Fray Bartolome 
de Las Casas, who was born in Seville, in 1474. He 
himself speaks of Seville as his native city, and 
the popular tradition, which fixes the ancient 
suburb of Triana as his birthplace, was recognised 
in 1859 by the municipality of Seville assigning 
the name of Calle del Procurador to one of the streets 
of Triana, in honour of the Bishop, whose proudest 
title was Protector (or Procurador) General of the 

In his voluminous writings, which teem with in- 

Family 3 

formation about the men and events of his times, 
the references to his own family history are in- 
frequent and imperfect, so that from his own 
records of his life, very little is to be gleaned con- 
cerning it. His father's name is variously given 
by different writers as Alonso, Antonio, and Fran- 
cisco, while he himself states 1 that he was named 
Pedro, thus contradicting all his biographers from 
Remesal, who was the first, down to Don Antonio 
Fabie, whose admirable Vida y Escritos, published 
in 1879, was the last important contribution on this 
interesting subject. Zuniga, in his Discurso de 
los Ortices, assumed that Alonso de las Casas and 
Beatriz Maraver y Cegarra of Triana were the 
parents of Fray Bartholomew, but in the Anales 
de Sevilla, a later work, Francisco is given as the 
father's name. Neither Llorente nor Gutierrez, 
who has followed him, gives any authority for his 
affirmation that the father's name was Antonio, 
while both Quintana and Fabie accept Remesal 2 
and name the father Francisco. 

The genealogy of the family furnished me by the 
dean of the Royal College of Heralds in Madrid 
shows the descent of Fray Bartholomew through his 
father, named Francisco, from Alonso de Las Casas, 
" Senor de Gomez Cardena, Veinticuatro de Seville, 
Alcalde por la Villa de Priego " in 1409, and his wife, 
Maria Fernandez Marmolejo. The children of this 

1 Historia General de las Indias, p. 428. 

2 Historia de Chiapa, lib. ii., cap. x. " Desta nobilissima 
familia era Francisco de Casaus, padre de Bartolome cuya vida 
coligida de sus escritos pretendo dar noticia. " 

Bartholomew de Las Casas 

couple were Guillen, Isabel, Juan, Pedro, and Fran- 
cisco, who is described in the genealogy as the 
father of Bartholomew. Pedro, whom Fray Bar- 
tholomew mentions as his father, is described as 
Dean of Seville, in which case his ecclesiastical state 
would exclude matrimony and legitimate issue. 

Fabie affirms that in several passages of his 
writings Fray Bartholomew confirms the assertion 
of those authors who have designated his father as 
Francisco, but he does not indicate the whereabouts 
of these passages nor have I, in my unaided re- 
searches, succeeded in finding them. The de- 
scendants of the original founder of the family had 
multiplied and, by the close of the fifteenth century, 
were divided into many prolific branches, hence 
the difficulty of identifying the unimportant father 
of an extraordinarily important son is not wonder- 
ful. Las Casas himself may be reasonably as- 
sumed to have known his own father's name and 
we must conclude, in view of his assertion, that all 
other authorities, including the Royal College of 
Heralds, are wrong, and that not Francisco, but a 
Pedro de Las Casas, who was not however Dean 
of Seville, was the immediate progenitor of the 
illustrious Bishop of Chiapa. 

The scarcity of positive information concerning 
his immediate family is equalled by the paucity 
of trustworthy details of the first twenty-eight years 
of Fray Bartholomew's life. He completed his 
studies and obtained the degree of licentiate in 
law at the University of Salamanca, the most 
celebrated in Spain, and which ranked high amongst 

Education 5 

the great seats of learning in Europe at that time. 
Jurisprudence was divided into the branches of 
Roman law as interpreted by the school of Bologna, 
and of canon law, the principles of which were 
interwoven with the common practice, whose se- 
verer tendencies they somewhat tempered. The pre- 
cepts of Aristotle as interpreted by scholastics 
formed the basis of philosophical studies, and the 
Thomistic doctrine was taught by professors of 
the Dominican Order. 

It has been judiciously observed that in that age 
of growing absolutism, both spiritual and temporal, 
only a skilful Thomistic scholar could have dis- 
cerned the limits to the legitimate exercise of the 
royal authority which Las Casas so clearly perceived 
and so boldly defined in the very presence of the 
autocratic sovereigns of Spain. 

Grammar, ethics, physics, and the branches of 
learning necessary to complete the education of a 
young man of his social position and mental ca- 
pacity, were doubtless embraced in his course of 
study. His use of the Latin tongue was fluent, 
though his style has been criticised as cumbersome 
and wanting in elegance; certainly his writings 
abound in diffuse generalities, a multiplicity of 
repetitions, and avast array of citations from Scrip- 
ture and the classics which render his unexpurgated 
manuscripts wearisome enough to modern readers. 
He shared the defects of most of his contemporaries 
in this respect and followed the fashion common 
to his times. The training he received in the 
Spanish schools and the University, and which he 

Bartholomew de Las Casas 

afterwards perfected — as will be seen — by the 
studies he resumed after his profession in the 
Dominican Order, rendered formidable as an ad- 
vocate one whom nature had endowed with a rare 
gift of eloquence, a passionate temperament, and a 
robust physical constitution which seems to have 
been immune to the ills and fatigues that assail less 
favoured mortals. Gines de Sepulveda, whose 
forensic encounter with Las Casas was one of the 
academic events of the sixteenth century, described 
his adversary in a letter to a friend as "most subtle, 
most vigilant, and most fluent, compared with whom 
Homer's Ulysses was inert and stammering.' 1 

The father of Las Casas accompanied Christopher 
Columbus on his second voyage to America and 
acquired profitable interests in the island of His- 
paniola. He returned to Spain in 1496, bringing 
with him an Indian lad whom he sent as a present 
to his son, who was then a student at Salamanca. 

Bartholomew's ownership of this Indian boy was 
brief, owing to Queen Isabella's intense displeasure 
when she learned that Columbus had brought, and 
permitted to be brought back Indians, as slaves. 
Nothing sufficed to appease the Queen's indigna- 
tion that the Admiral should thus dispose of her 
new subjects without her leave and authority, 
and a royal order was published from Granada, 
where the court then was, commanding, under pain 
of death, that all those who had brought Indians to 
Spain as slaves should send them back to America. 
When Francisco de Bobadilla was sent in 1500 to 
Hispaniola to supersede Columbus as Governor, all 

First Voyage to America 7 

these Indians returned with him and Las Casas 
himself states, "Mine was of the number." 

Thus strangely is the future apostle of freedom 
first introduced to our notice in the guise of a slave- 
holder, constrained by a royal edict to surrender 
his human property. 

Upon his return from Salamanca to Seville Las 
Casas found himself, through his father's relations 
with Columbus, in daily intercourse with the men 
whose voyages and discoveries were thrilling Europe. 
Amongst these navigators was his uncle Francisco 
de Penalosa, and it was but natural that his eager 
temperament should catch the adventurous fever 
which prevailed throughout Spain and notably 
in Andalusia. Salucchi, in his Latin treatise on 
Hebrew coins, says that Las Casas accompanied 
his father on the second voyage of Columbus in 
1493 and brought back the Indian slave himself. 
Llorente, who has been followed by several modern 
writers, asserts that his first voyage to America 
was made with Columbus on his third expedition. 
He deduces this conclusion from a statement at 
the close of the Thirty Propositions which Las 
Casas addressed to the Royal India Council in 
1547 and from a sentence in the First Motive of 
his Ninth Remedy which he presented to the Em- 
peror in 1542. The first of these passages reads 
as follows: "Thus, most illustrious Sirs, have I 
thought since forty-nine years, during which I 
have witnessed evil-doings in America and since 
thirty-four years that I have studied law." The 
second passage merely refers to Columbus having 

8 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

permitted certain Spaniards who had rendered 
important services during his voyage to bring 
back each an Indian and concludes, "And I ob- 
tained one." 

The deductions of both these learned writers 
would seem to require more positive corroboration. 
Not only are they destitute of confirmation, but 
in the second chapter of his Historia General, Las 
Casas gives the names of many persons who did 
accompany Columbus in 1493, describing several 
incidents connected with that expedition and con- 
cluding by saying that he heard all these things 
"from my father who returned [to America] with 
him, when he went to found settlements in His- 
paniola.' ' In the preface which he wrote in 
1552 to accompany the publication of his history, 
Destruycion de las Indias, which had been composed 
ten years earlier, he speaks of his experience ex- 
tending over more than fifty years, but in his 
Historia General , which is almost a diary of the 
first half of his life in America, the first voyage that 
he mentions is that of Don Nicholas de Ovando 
in 1502. Las Casas was most careful in describing 
every particular of the events in which he had a 
part and he nowhere mentions that he accompanied 
Columbus on any voyage, whereas he dwells at 
length upon the expedition of Ovando, and in the 
third chapter of the second book of the Historia 
General he affirms, "I heard this with my own ears 
for I went on that voyage with the Comendador 
de Lares [Ovando] to this island." The phrase is 
characteristic, for the positive note is rarely absent 

First Voyage to America 

in the affirmations of Las Casas, nor is it admissible 
that his experiences on any voyage previous to that 
of Ovando should find no place in the exact and 
scrupulous narrative he has left us of his relations 
with America and his beloved Indians. 

In consequence of the persistent and bitter com- 
plaints of Columbus against the second Governor 
of Hispaniola, whose appointment violated the 
rights secured to the Admiral and his successors 
by the capitulations of Granada, the catholic sov- 
ereign decided to recall Francisco de Bobadilla, 
whose administration gave cause for dissatisfaction 
in other respects, and to send Don Nicholas de 
Ovando to replace him. Ovando was at that time 
Comendador de Lares and was later raised to the 
supreme commandership of the Order of Calatrava. 
He is described as a most prudent man, worthy to 
govern any number of people, but not Indians; 
a most upright man in word and deed, an avowed 
enemy of avarice and covetousness ; not wanting 
in humility, as shown in his habits of life, both 
public and private, though he maintained the dig- 
nity and authority of his position. 1 

The new Governor was endowed with full powers 
to judge the accusations against his predecessor 
and to dispose of the nettlesome questions which 
had provoked the Roldan rebellion. 

The preparations for his departure were delayed 
by many causes; his fleet was the most considerable 
one that had thus far been organised to sail for 
America, being composed of thirty-two vessels on 

1 Historia General de las Indias, torn, iii., p. 16. 

io Bartholomew de Las Casas 

which were to sail some two thousand five hundred 
persons, many of whom were knights and noblemen. 
Twelve Franciscan friars under the direction of 
their leader, Fray Alonso del Espinal, formed part 
of the company. 

It was this brilliant expedition that Fernando 
Cortes intended to join when he was prevented by 
injuries incurred while engaged in an amorous 
adventure which led him over garden walls into 
risky situations where he ended with broken bones, 
and was consequently left behind. The fleet sailed 
from San Lucar de Barrameda on February 13, 
1502, — which according to Las Casas was the first 
Sunday in lent of that year. 1 

The usual course, by way of the Canary Islands, 
was followed, but after eight days at sea, a violent 
tempest wrecked one ship, La Rabida, with one 
hundred and twenty people on board, and scattered 
the remainder; some vessels were obliged to throw 
most of their cargo overboard, but all, after many 
dangers, gradually found refuge in various ports 
of the neighbouring islands. 

The wreckage of La Rabida, and that of some other 
vessels which had also foundered while carrying 
sugar from the islands, drifted back to the Spanish 
coast and gave rise to the rumour that the entire 
fleet was lost. This caused such a general sense 
of affliction that the sovereigns, on receipt of this 
false report, shut themselves up in the palace at 
Granada and mourned for eight days. 

The vessels which had weathered the tempest 

1 Hist. Gen., torn, iii., p. 18. 

First Voyage to America n 

united after some delay in the port of the island 
of Gomera, and being joined there by another, 
fitted out in the Canaries by people eager to go to 
America, the fleet was thus brought up to its 
original complement. The commander divided his 
squadron into two sections, the first of which, 
composed of the fastest vessels, he kept under his 
own command, while the second was placed under 
command of Antonio de Torres. Ovando's di- 
vision reached Hispaniola on the fifteenth of April 
and the second squadron came safely to port some 
twelve days later. Thus did Bartholomew de 
Las Casas first land in the New World. 





IN the ever-memorable month of October, 1492, 
Christopher Columbus landed on the shores of 
the New World he had discovered by sailing 
westward. To this great undertaking Columbus had 
advanced through a long career during which he had 
had unusual adventures and experiences in almost 
every part of the known world. A Genoese by birth, 
he had studied at Pavia, 1 where he had acquired 
some knowledge of Latin, and was introduced to 
the study of those sciences to which his inclinations 
and his opportunities enabled him later to devote 
himself. He knew the Atlantic Coast from El 
Mina in Africa, 2 to England and Iceland, 3 and he 
had visited the Levant 4 and the islands of the 
Grecian Archipelago. 

Writing of himself to the Catholic sovereigns, 
he says that he had been a sailor from his earliest 
youth, and curious to discover the secrets of the 

1 Harrisse discredits the story of Columbus's sojourn at Pavia. 

2 Barcia, Historiadores, cap. iv., Crist. Colon. 

3 Las Casas, Hist. Gen. de las Indias, lib. i., cap. viii. 

4 Navarrete, Coleccion, torn, i., p. 101. 


Discoveries of Columbus 13 

world. This same impulse led him to the study 
of navigation, cosmography, and kindred sciences, 
and his son Ferdinand states that the book which 
most influenced his father was the Cosmograpkia 
of Cardinal Aliaco in which he read the following 
passage: "Et dicit Aristoteles ut mare parvum est 
inter finem Hispanic? a parte Occidentis, et inter 
principium Indies a parte Orientis. Et non loquitur 
de Hispanid citeriori quce nunc Hispania communiter 
dicitur sed de Hispanid ulteriori quce nunc Africa 
dicitur." 1 

The illustrious Florentine, Paolo Toscanelli, de- 
finitely encouraged the conviction Columbus had 
formed from his reading of Marco Polo's descriptions 
of Cipango, Cathay, and the Grand Khan, that the 
eastern lands might be reached by sailing west, 
and there was doubtless little the ancients had 
written concerning the existence of islands and 
continents lying beyond the Pillars of Hercules 
with which he was not acquainted. 

The story of his attempts to secure the necessary 
means and authority for undertaking his great 
enterprise does not belong to our present subject, 
but before hearing his own description of what and 
whom he found in the western hemisphere when 
first he landed there, it is necessary to consider 
the arguments by which his friends finally prevailed 
on the sovereigns of Castile to grant him their 
patronage. That they did this contrary to the 
counsels of the learned cosmographers of the age 
and in defiance of contemporary common-sense, 

1 Aliaco, Imago Mundi, cap. viii. 

i4 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

is in itself a most noteworthy fact which testifies 
both to the singular qualities of Columbus and to 
the rare sagacity of the Catholic Queen who, in her 
momentous decision, acted alone, there being little 
in the scheme to commend it to the colder tem- 
perament of King Ferdinand. 

By almost no intellectual effort can we of to-day 
realise the chimerical stamp which the proposition 
of Columbus bore, and which served to mark him 
as an adventurer and a visionary or, to use a forceful 
Americanism, as a "crank" in the estimation of 
sensible, practical people. He has himself recorded 
that he believed he was acting under inspiration 
and was merely fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah. 
The council of cosmographers summoned by the 
Queen's confessor, Fray Hernando de Talavera, to 
study the project which Columbus, through the 
exertions of his friends, the Prior of Santa Maria 
de la Rabida, and Alonso de Quintanilla, treasurer 
of the royal household, had succeeded in pre- 
senting to the sovereigns, decided "that it was 
vain and impossible, nor did it belong to the majesty 
of such great Princes to decide anything upon such 
weak grounds of information. " 1 

Spain was at that time engaged in a costly war 
against the Moors, who still held Granada; hard 
pushed as the sovereigns were for money to carry 
on the necessary military operations, it is not 
strange that no funds were forthcoming to finance 
the visionary schemes propounded by an obscure 
foreigner. After some years of vain striving, 

1 Herrera, Hist. Gen., dec. i., lib. i., cap. viii. 

Discoveries of Columbus 15 

Columbus was on the point of quitting the country 
in despair, when two powerful allies intervened, — 
Cardinal Mendoza, Archbishop of Toledo, and Luis 
de Santangel, who held the office of Receiver of 
Ecclesiastical Revenues of the Crown of Aragon. 

It must have argued powerfully in favour of 
Columbus that he had won to his support, not only 
several great ecclesiastics and the Duke of Medina 
Celi, but also two of the most astute financiers 
of the realm, — Santangel and Quintanilla, men not 
easily accessible to enthusiasms nor inclined to 
encourage non-paying investments. 

Whatever was the motive that prompted these 
men to take the project under their protection, the 
Queen was primarily swayed by religious argu- 
ments, which also with Columbus were as powerfully 
operative as his desire for profit and glory. 

The preface of his journal contains a review of 
the events of the year 1492, which was signalised 
by the fall of Granada and the final expulsion, 
after seven centuries, of the Moors from Spain. 
He recalls his petition to the Pope, asking that 
learned Catholic doctors should be sent to instruct 
the Grand Khan in the true faith, and to convert 
the many populous cities that were perishing in 
idolatry, to which his Holiness had vouchsafed 
no answer; after which he continues: 

Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians and Princes, 
lovers and promoters of the Christian religion, and 
enemies of the sect of Mahomet and of all idolatries and 
heresies, thought to send me, Christopher Columbus, 
to the afore-mentioned provinces of India to see the said 

1 6 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

princes, the cities, the countries, their position and 
everything concerning them and the way that should be 
adopted to convert them to our Holy Faith. 1 

This passage reflects the mind and character of 
Columbus as he is described by Las Casas; for even 
beyond the glory of penetrating the world's mys- 
teries that so powerfully influenced him, he nur- 
tured dreams of religious propaganda, another 
crusade to recover the Holy Sepulchre, and the 
conversion of all the heathen to the faith. 

He fasted with strictest observance on the fasts of the 
church; he confessed and received communion fre- 
quently; he recited the canonical hours like an ecclesi- 
astic or a monk; most inimical to blasphemies and 
oaths, he was most devoted to Our Lady and to the 
seraphic Father, St. Francis, . . . most jealous of 
the Divine honour, eager and desirous for the conversion 
of these peoples, and that the faith of Jesus Christ should 
be everywhere spread, and singularly given and de- 
voted to God that he might be made worthy to help in 
some way to win the Holy Sepulchre. 2 

Patient, long-suffering, prone to forgive injuries, 
Columbus was a man of courageous soul and high 
aspirations, always pervaded with infinite con- 
fidence in Divine Providence and never failing 
in loyalty to the sovereigns whom he served. 

Such were the qualities of the man whose great 
discovery prepared the scene on which Las Casas 
was to play the noblest part of all; such were the 

* Navarrete, torn, i., p. 2. 

2 Las Casas, Hist. Gen., lib. i., cap. ii. 

Discoveries of Columbus 1 7 

influences which promised to shape his actions in 
conformity with the intentions of the saintly Queen 
who sustained him. These influences are seen to 
be first and always religious; religious in the pre- 
vailing conception of a century, when the inter- 
pretation of the command "go ye and teach all 
nations" admitted of no shirking an obligation 
laid by Divine command on each Christian, whether 
bishop or priest, king or subject. An infallible 
Church provided the one ordained channel of divine 
grace and salvation for mankind, dissent from 
which meant damnation, and hence into that Church 
all nations must be gathered. 

Bearing these conditions of the age and these 
convictions which dominated both the Queen and 
Columbus well in mind, we shall later have oc- 
casion to observe the startling contradiction of 
the essential principles of Christianity shown in 
the acts of the latter in his dealings with the In- 
dians ; for he not only prepared the stage Las Casas 
was to tread, but he likewise provided the tragedy 
of iniquity to be thereon enacted. 

The first soil on which Columbus landed was 
that of a beautiful island some fifteen leagues in 
length, fruitful, fresh, and verdant like a fair garden, 
in the midst of which was a lake of sweet water. 
The weary eyes of the mariners, strained for 
weeks to catch a glimpse of the despaired-of land, 
were refreshed by the sight of this "pezzo del cielo 
caduto in terra," and the landing of Columbus was 
a scene of picturesque and moving simplicity in 
which were not wanting the features of martial 

1 8 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

grandeur and religious solemnity, furnished by 
steel-clad knights with drawn swords, bearing the 
royal standard of Castile and the emblem of man's 
salvation, before which all knelt in a fervour of 
triumph and thanksgiving. Both as wondering 
witnesses and interested actors in this memorable 
drama, there appeared the natives of the island, 
transfixed in silent awe in the presence of their 
mysterious guests. Columbus describes them as 
well-built, with good features and beautiful eyes, 
but with hair as coarse as a horse's mane; their 
complexion was yellowish and they had their faces 
painted. They were entirely naked and neither 
carried weapons nor understood the use of such 

"They ought," he says, "to make faithful and 
intelligent servants, for I perceive they very quickly 
repeat all that is said to them and I believe they 
would very quickly be converted to Christianity 
as it appeared to me that they had no creed." 

In another passage he writes: 

As they showed us such friendship and as I recognised 
that they were people who would yield themselves 
better to the Christian faith and be converted more 
through love than by force, I gave some of them some 
coloured buttons and some glass beads which they wore 
around their necks, and many other things of small 
value, with which they were delighted, and became so 
attached to us that it was a marvel to behold. 

The natives were not slow to reciprocate these 
gifts and hastened to offer the best of all they 

American Indians 19 

possessed to the Spaniards in return for their trifling 

Indeed, since it is better to give than to receive, 
these simple people were blessed amongst men, for 
the Admiral describes the natives of Marien as 
being of such a generous disposition that they es- 
teemed it the highest honour to be asked to give. 
What could be more idyllic than his description 
of the people he found at Rio del Sol in Cuba? — 
"They are all very gentle, without knowledge of 
evil, neither killing nor stealing." Everywhere 
he touched during his first voyage, he and his men 
were welcomed as gods descended upon earth, their 
wants anticipated, and such boundless hospitality 
showered upon them that Columbus was touched 
by the gentleness and grace of the natives. 

They are a loving uncovetous people, so docile in all 
things that I do assure your Highnesses I believe in all 
the world there is not a better people or a better country ; 
they love their neighbours as themselves, and they 
have the sweetest and gentlest way of speaking in the 
world and always with a smile. 

When it came the turn of Las Casas to describe 
the Indians in the islands, he wrote : 

All these infinite peoples were created by God the 
most simple of all others, without malice or duplicity, 
most obedient and faithful to their rulers, whom they 
serve; the most humble, patient, loving, peaceful, and 
docile people, without contentions or tumults; neither 
factious nor quarrelsome, without hatred, or desire for 
revenge, more than any other people in the world. 

2o Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Such were the accounts of the New World given 
to the Catholic sovereigns by Columbus on his 
return from his first voyage, and afterwards by Las 
Casas in his terrible indictment of his country- 
men's destructive invasion of those peaceful realms, 
peopled by innocent and genial heathen. Had Shake- 
speare heard this fair report when he put the 
description of the magic isle in the mouth of the 
King's counsellor, Gonzalo? 

I* the commonwealth I would by contraries 
Execute all things ; for no kind of traffic 
Would I admit ; no name of magistrate ; 
Letters should not be known ; riches, poverty, 
And use of service, none; contract, succession, 
Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none; 
No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil; 
No occupation; all men idle, all; 
And women too, but innocent and pure; 
No sovereignty; 

All things in common nature should produce 
Without sweat or endeavour; treason, felony, 
Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine 
Would I not have ; but nature should bring forth, 
Of it's own kind, all foison, all abundance 
To feed my innocent people. 1 

Upon such virgin soil, Columbus felt confident 
that the gospel seed would produce an abundant 
harvest and he says: 

I hold it for certain, Most Serene Princes, that by 
means of devout, religious persons, knowing their lan- 

1 The Tempest, Act II., Sc. I. 

American Indians 2 1 

guage, they would all quickly become Christians and 
thus I hope in Our Lord that your Highnesses will 
provide for this with much diligence to bring such 
numerous people into the Church and convert them, as 
you have destroyed those who would not confess the 
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and that after this life 
(for we are all mortal) you will leave your kingdoms in 
a very tranquil state, purified from heresy and evil. 

Wonderful and humiliating is it to observe how 
little these first impressions of the Indians and 
these elevated Christian aspirations influenced his 
conduct in dealing with them, once he was master of 
their destinies. 

The declared purposes of the second voyage of 
Columbus in 1493 were the colonisation of the newly 
discovered countries, the conversion of the natives, 
and the extension of his discoveries. Pope Alex- 
ander VI. had conferred the lands thus far dis- 
covered and others to be discovered upon the 
sovereigns of Castile an£i: Leon,; with the fullest 
rights over navigation, and imperial jurisdiction 
over the western hemisphere. The Bull bestowing 
these concessions was dated the fourth" of May, 
1493, in the 'firstf year" of 'his'- pontificate. An im- 
aginary line, drawn from pole ~ J £0 pole and passing 
one hundred leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands, 
separated the spheres of Spanish and Portuguese 
exploration, and the Bull expressly laid down as 
the principal reason for this grant, that the natives 
should be converted to Christianity. 1 

The conditions imposed by the Pontiff corre- 

Las Casas, Hist. Gen., lib. i., cap. lxxix. 

22 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

sponded perfectly to the sincere desires of the 
Spanish sovereigns, who had, from their first know- 
ledge of the existence of the Indians, displayed the 
keenest and tenderest zeal to provide for their 
welfare. They instructed Columbus to deal lovingly 
with the Indians, to make them generous gifts, 
and to show them much honour; and if perchance 
any one should treat them unjustly, the Admiral 
should punish him severely. 1 

This second expedition was composed of 1 500 men, 
of whom twenty were horsemen ; many knights and 
gentlemen, especially from Seville, and some mem- 
bers of the royal household also went. The number 
of officials of various grades appointed to exercise 
problematical functions in the new colony exceeded 
the necessities of the case and gave promise of the 
many dissensions and petty conflicts which were not 
slow in declaring themselves. A priest, Father Buil, 
and other ecclesiastics were sent to undertake the 
instruction and conversion of the Indians; in all, 
seventeen ships left the Bay of Cadiz on September 
25, I493- 2 , Upon his arrival at Hispaniola, the 
Admiral ■" found the little colony he had left there 
completely 'exterminated,-' and' learned from his 
friend the Cacique* 'GuaCanagari that, after his 
departure for Spain, the Spaniards had fallen to 
quarrelling amongst themselves and had scattered 
throughout the island, provoking hostilities with 
the natives and had, in consequence, been killed 
by a neighbouring chieftain, Caonabo, who also 

1 Navarrete, Col. Dip., num. xlv. 

2 Hist. Gen., lib. i., cap. lxxxiii. 

Slavery and Slave-Trade 23 

burned the tower the colonists had built. The 
first report on the state of the new colony of Isabella, 
which Columbus sent to Spain in January, 1494, 
was in the form of an instruction to Antonio de 
Torres, receiver for the colony, whom Las Casas 
describes as " a brother of the Governor of the Infante 
Don Juan, a notable person, prudent and efficient 
for such a post." 1 In this notable document 
occurs the first mention of slavery in the New World. 
The Admiral directs Torres to inform the sovereigns 
that he has made slaves of some Indians captured 
in the cannibal islands, and has sent them to Spain 
to have them taught Spanish in order that they 
may later serve as interpreters. The justification 
he advanced for this measure was that by taking 
these people from their surroundings they would 
be cured of their cannibalism, converted to Christ- 
ianity, and their souls saved; besides which, 
if the cannibals were thus converted, the Indians 
of the neighbouring islands, who were peaceable 
and lived in fear of them, would conceive a still 
higher regard for the Spaniards. 

This reasoning doubtless commended itself to 
most people, but the sagacious Queen instantly 
put her finger upon the flaw in the argument, 
and on the margin of Columbus's report is written 
her answer: "This is all very well and so it must be 
done; but let the Admiral see whether it might not 
be there arranged to bring them to our Holy Catholic 
Faith and the same with the Indians of those islands 
where he is." 

1 Hist. Gen.y lib. i., cap. lxxxii. 

24 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

The next suggestion, despite any possible ex- 
cellence of his motives, was a frank proposal to 
establish a thriving trade in human flesh as bare- 
faced as could be made by the least scrupulous 
"blackbirder. ' : The Admiral, always dwelling upon 
the spiritual welfare of the cannibal natives, pro- 
posed that the more of them that could be captured, 
the better it would be, and then, mingling temporal 
advantages to Spaniards with spiritual blessings 
to the natives, he explained that the quantities of 
live stock and other necessaries required by the 
colonists, might be paid for by the sale of slaves 
sent back to Spain in the ships which would bring 
these supplies several times a year to the colony. 
The sovereigns are to be reminded that they may 
collect duties on this slave-trade, and an early 
answer is desired in order that the arrangements 
for the new commerce may be pushed forward. 1 

The Queen's observation on this passage was not 
as positive as it might have been and, though the 
proposition was evidently repugnant to her, she 
merely directed that the matter be suspended for 
the present until some other way of providing on 
the spot be found and that the Admiral should 
report further. Columbus, however, did not wait 
to receive the royal approval of his slave-trading 
schemes. During a voyage which resulted in the 
discovery of Jamaica and other islands, he visited 
that of San Juan (Puerto Rico) for the purpose of 
capturing more cannibals, and on his return to 
Hispaniola, where he had left his brother Don 

» Navarrete, Col., vol. i., p. 233. 

Slavery and Slave-Trade 25 

Diego in charge as President and Don Pedro Mar- 
garite as Captain- General, he found affairs in the 
worst possible condition owing to the foolish and 
inconsiderate conduct of the colonists, which had 
converted the friendly natives into hostile enemies 
and placed the very existence of the colony in 
jeopardy. After some hostilities, a degree of tran- 
quillity was established and Columbus laid a tribute 
upon the entire population of the island which 
required that each Indian above fourteen years 
of age who lived in the mining provinces was to 
pay a little bell filled with gold every three months ; 
the natives of all other provinces were to pay one 
arroba of cotton. These amounts were so excessive 
that in 1496 it was found necessary to change the 
nature of the payment, and, instead of the gold and 
cotton required from the villages, labour was sub- 
stituted, the Indians being required to lay out and 
work the plantations of the colonists in their vicinity. 
This was the germ of the cruel and oppressive 
repartimientos and encomiendas which were destined 
to depopulate the islands and to bring an indelible 
stigma on the Spanish colonial system in the Indies. 
In that year, 1496, Bartholomew Columbus sent 
three hundred natives, who were convicted or ac- 
cused of killing Spaniards, to Spain to be sold as 
slaves. Though the Spanish sovereigns admitted 
a difference in the status of such natives, there is 
nevertheless a letter of theirs addressed to Bishop 
Fonseca, who was at the head of Indian affairs, 
directing him to receive no money from the sale 
of Indians until theologians and canonists had 

26 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

pronounced upon the question whether they might, 
with a good conscience, permit such Indians to be 
sold. No positive decision is recorded, but orders 
were given that all Indians taken in acts of flagrant 
"rebellion" and found guilty should be sent to 
Spain. There was but one fate awaiting them, 
so that, if not formally approved, the enslaving 
of Indians, accused of rebellion, was by this edict 

Another piece of colonial legislation was effected 
in 1497 by the issue of a royal patent to the Ad- 
miral, authorising him to grant parcels of land in 
the islands to the Spanish colonists; there is no 
mention in this grant of repartimientos of Indians 
to work on the lands. The affairs of the colony 
were not prospering, complaints against the Ad- 
miral were numerous, and the situation was much 
complicated by the open rebellion of the chief 
justice, Roldan, in which the unfortunate Indians 
found themselves, whether they would or no, in- 
volved on one side or the other and, no matter 
which way victory went, upon them it fell to pay 
the costs. Regular raids were organised upon tribes 
and villages, on the pretext that a chief had not 
performed the services required in lieu of tribute 
and had fled with his people to the forests; pursuit 
followed and all who were captured were considered 
rebels taken in open fight and were immediately 
dispatched in the vessels of Columbus's fleet, which 
had reached Hispaniola in August, 1498, to be sold 
as slaves in Spain. Still invoking the name of the 
Holy Trinity, Columbus explained to the sovereigns 

Slavery and Slave-Trade 27 

that he could supply as many slaves as the Spanish 
market required, estimating, according to his in- 
formation, that four thousand could be disposed of, 
the value of whom, together with that of a shipment 
of logwood, would amount to 40,000,000 maravedis. 
The consignment mentioned consisted of six hundred 
slaves, of whom one third was given to the masters 
of the ships to cover the carrying charges. 

In the same letter, Columbus asked that the 
colonists should be allowed to use Indian labour 
for a year or two until their affairs should become 
more settled and prosperous, and so satisfied was 
he with the equity of this arrangement that he set 
it at once in operation without waiting for the royal 
sanction of his plan. After two years of dissen- 
sions, Roldan and his rebellious supporters were 
pacified and Columbus partitioned lands and slaves 
among them with unstinted generosity. Those 
of Roldan 's adherents who elected to remain in 
the colony received from the Admiral repartimientos, 
consisting of a certain number of hillocks of cazabi 
(the plant from which flour for cassava bread was 
made), which were placed in charge of a cacique 
whose people were obliged to till them for the 
profit of the holder. This was the second stage 
in the development of repartimientos, viz., the In- 
dians were bound to the land and forced to cultivate 
it. Fifteen of the Roldan party, however, decided 
to return to Spain, each of whom received from 
one to three slaves, whom they took back with them 
in October, 1499. 

The Queen's proclamation issued at Seville, 

28 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Granada, and elsewhere ordering all holders of 
slaves given them by Columbus to return them 
forthwith to Hispaniola under pain of death dis- 
tinguished, however, between such and the others 
who had been taken as prisoners of war and sold 
into slavery. The distinction is a fine one and 
points to the conclusion that even Queen Isabella 
admitted that some Indians might, for defined 
causes, be enslaved, and that her assent was based 
upon some pronouncement of the canonists and 
theologians to whom she had submitted the ques- 
tion; but there is nothing to show that the slaves 
given to Roldan's followers were captured in any 
different way from the others. This inconsistency, 
which so sadly weakens the noble character of the 
royal proclamation and detracts from the merits 
of the Queen as an enemy of slavery, could hardly 
have proceeded from her own inclinations but was 
rather the outcome of some casuistry that con- 
strained her action without convincing her judg- 
ment. The Queen doubtless saw with pain and 
disappointment that, owing to the Admiral's meas- 
ures and proposals, which were in surprising con- 
tradiction with the lofty and pious principles he 
professed, her own Catholic aspirations for the 
speedy conversion of the Indians and the pacific 
extension of Spanish rule were being thwarted. 
The noise of the controversies in which the sublime 
unreason of Columbus had fortunately prevailed 
over the scientific opinions of the age, the interest 
of the Queen, and all the circumstances of his first 
voyage had fastened the attention of the Spanish 

Slavery and Slave-Trade 29 

and Portuguese courts upon his expedition, exclud- 
ing any hope that failure might escape notice. For 
he had failed in his ultimate purpose. Instead of 
Cathay, the Grand Khan ready to welcome Christi- 
anity, and a short road to the wealth of the East, he 
had found a few semi-tropical islands, producing 
parrots and cocoanuts chiefly, and inhabited by 
harmless barbarians living in an idyllic state of pov- 
erty and idleness. The enthusiasm aroused by his 
first voyage subsided and his fame as an explorer 
was obscured by his incompetency as a governor. 
He himself never lived to comprehend the real 
importance of his discovery and he persisted in 
regarding the islands as the outposts of a great 
Oriental empire. Having sailed to seek a short route 
to the ancient East, Columbus was constrained to 
render his disappointing discovery acceptable by 
making it profitable and, since the promised gold 
and rare spices were not forthcoming, only the trade 
in slaves remained to furnish immediate profits. In 
July, 1500, Francisco de Bobadilla sailed to super- 
sede Columbus, with full powers from the sovereigns, 
and had he gone as a messenger of vengeance to 
chastise the Admiral's moral backsliding, he could 
not have enacted the role more consistently, for, 
from the moment of his landing, his treatment of 
Columbus was ruthless, and an amazed world was 
shortly furnished the humiliating spectacle of the 
great Admiral, in chains, shipped back to the king- 
dom he had endowed with a world. Bobadilla's 
moral, social, and economic administration proved 
a complete failure and his own excesses contributed 

30 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

to his speedy removal, without his management 
of the colony having corrected the abuses he was 
sent out to redress or having relieved the Indians 
from the bonds of slavery which, in defiance of the 
sovereign's commands, were being daily riveted 
more securely upon them. 

The justified protests of Columbus found a hear- 
ing, and the man who had inflicted a supreme in- 
dignity upon him was recalled, Don Nicholas 
de Ovando being appointed by a royal cedula of 
September 3, 1501, to succeed him. 



THE arrival of Don Nicholas de Ovando's fleet 
at Hispaniola was an event of the greatest 
importance to the colony. The first news 
that greeted the new arrivals was that of the dis- 
covery of a huge nugget of gold, the largest yet 
found and which, in fact, was never again equalled 
in size until the rich lodes in California were tapped 
in 1849, f° r & weighed thirty-five pounds and was 
valued at 3600 pesos in the money of that time. 

This famous nugget was found eight or nine 
leagues from the settlement of San Domingo, by 
an Indian girl, who, while resting from her labours, 
idly turned up the soil with an instrument she held, 
and thus brought to light the wonderful treasure. 
The Governor appropriated it for the King, paying 
its value to the two owners of the mine. The 
jubilant Spaniards used the nugget, which was 
shaped like a broad, flat dish, to serve up a roast 
sucking-pig at a banquet given in honour of the 
occasion, saying that no king ever feasted from 
such a platter. Las Casas remarks that as for the 
miserable Indian girl who found it, we may without 

sin suppose that they never gave her so much as a 


32 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

red silk petticoat, and lucky was she indeed if she 
got even a mouthful of the pig! 

The second piece of glad news the colonists com- 
municated was, that owing to a recent uprising 
of the Indians in a certain province, they had been 
able to enslave a goodly number of the rebels. Such 
occasions rejoiced their hearts, over the profits 
they thus derived from the struggles of the unhappy 
natives to recover their freedom, and it may likewise 
without sin be supposed that their ingenuity was 
not barren in suggesting devices for provoking 
such lucrative revolts. 

In the instructions delivered to Ovando, as well 
as in the Queen's verbal behests to him before 
sailing, the sovereigns sought to remedy the abuses 
under which the Indians suffered. The Queen 
explicitly laid down the fundamental principle that 
"all the Indians in Hispaniola are and should be 
free from servitude; nor should they be molested 
by any one, but should live as free vassals, governed 
and protected as are the vassals of Castile." They 
were to pay a tribute — all Spanish vassals were 
taxed — and they were to work in the gold-mines, 
but for their labour they were to receive a daily 
wage. The Queen's obvious intention was that the 
government should, in some measure at least, be 
carried on for the benefit of the Indians it was in- 
stituted to govern. The orders describing the meas- 
ures to be taken for the instruction and conversion 
of the natives were equally clear and imperative. 

Ovando was authorised to permit the importation 
into Hispaniola of negroes who were born slaves. 

if she 


to recover 

be supposed 

Christopher Columbus 

From an engraving by P. Mercuri after a contem- 
porary portrait. V befofe 


t for th. 
nment e 
a for 
ed to govern. 

ves were 

: Of 13 



vi version 



>orn si 

Colony of Hispaniola 33 

belonging to Christian owners. 3 They were con- 
sequently brought to the colony in such numbers 
that the Governor soon wrote to Spain, advising 
that the traffic in African slaves be stopped, as the 
negroes constantly escaped and took refuge in the 
forests and mountains, taking with them also many 
Indians. These negroes were for the most part born 
in Andalusia of slave parents, who had been brought 
there by the Portuguese who had carried on the 
slave-trade since early in the fifteenth century. 

The first official action of the new Governor 
was to institute an inquiry into the administration 
of his predecessor, Bobadilla, against whose harsh 
and arbitrary treatment of him, Columbus had 
filed complaints. The Admiral had meanwhile been 
received by the sovereigns, and Queen Isabella's 
compassionate heart had been much grieved by 
the sad accounts of the indignities put upon him, 
the confiscation of his properties, the violation 
of the rights solemnly conferred upon him and his 
heirs under her signature, and finally the supreme 
outrage of his deposition and his return to Spain 
wearing the chains of a common malefactor. Fran- 
cisco de Bobadilla had far outstripped the limits 
of the sovereign's intentions as well as those of his 
own authority and had, by his treatment of Colum- 
bus, violated the commonest sentiments of justice 
and humanity. Ovando made full restitution of 
the confiscated properties, and the rights and 
privileges guaranteed to Columbus were once more 
recognised and made valid. The latter organised 

1 Llorente, Vida de Las Casas, p. 13. 

34 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

his fourth and last expedition to America, which 
sailed on the ninth of May, 1502, 1 and arrived at 
Hispaniola after a prosperous voyage, on the twenty- 
ninth of June. Bobadilla set sail for Spain on board 
the same ship which carried the famous gold nugget, 
but neither arrived, as the vessel was overtaken by 
a violent hurricane, and was lost when barely forty 
hours out from port. Thus perished one whose iniq- 
uities have caused his name to be handed down to 
eternal execration in the pages of American history. 
Such was the condition of the colony in His- 
paniola, when Bartholomew de Las Casas, then a 
young licentiate, twenty-eight years of age, arrived 
there. The purpose of his coming was no different 
from that of the other gentlemen-adventurers who 
were bent on acquiring speedy fortunes in a land 
of supposed riches that formed the theme of fabulous 
and alluring tales, which often enough had but 
slender foundation in fact. As his father had 
already acquired properties in the island, it is 
probable that Bartholomew came to assume the 
direction of them. There is nothing to show that 
he was at that time especially impressed or moved 
by the sad condition of the Indians and the violation 
of their rights; on the contrary, he procured slaves, 
worked them in the mines, and attended to the 
cultivation of his estates with the energy he em- 
ployed in every undertaking to which he put his 
hand. He says himself that during eight years of 
Ovando's governorship, this "pestilential disorder" 

1 Fernando Columbus, Historie, cap. lxxxviii., verso folio 194. 

Arrival of Las Casas 35 

took root without there being a man who spoke 
or heeded or thought anything about it, notwith- 
standing that such multitudes were being sacrificed, 
that out of the infinite number of the inhabitants 
of whom the Admiral first wrote to the Catholic 
sovereigns, there perished more than nine tenths in 
that brief period. 1 

He took part in the second war against the Ca- 
cique Cocubano 2 in the province of Higuey, of which 
he afterwards wrote the most horrifying description. 
He related incredible cruelties, concluding thus: 
"All these deeds, and others foreign to all human 
nature did my own eyes witness, and I do not now 
dare to recount them, being hardly able to believe 
myself, lest perhaps I may have dreamed them." 
Throughout these massacres Las Casas, young, 
enthusiastic, generous-hearted, noble-minded, and 
with his naturally keen sensibilities refined and 
sharpened by the best education of his times, ap- 
pears to have played his part with the others, 
neither better nor worse than they, equally blind 
to the injustice and tyranny practised upon the 
inoffensive and defenceless Indians and only eager 
for his share of the profits derived from their suffer- 
ings. The contradiction is as flagrant as in the case 
of the great Admiral who initiated the system 
which brought all these horrors in logical sequence. 
The war in Higuey finished with the capture of 
the unfortunate Cocubano, whom Ovando caused 
to be hanged at San Domingo instead of allowing 

1 Hist. Gen., torn, iii., p. 87. 

2 Also called Cocubanama. 

36 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

him to be torn to pieces with pincers as the Span- 
iards demanded should be done. Such was the 
quality of mercy in that Governor's heart. 

The affairs of Las Casas prospered and he grew 
rich, though it is difficult to believe that his yearly 
income from his properties amounted to 100,000 
castellanos — an enormous sum, given the value 
of money at that time, — yet this is the figure he 
himself has given in his own writings. 1 

Such being the attitude of a man of finer tem- 
perament during eight years passed amidst scenes 
of rapacious ferocity, something must be admitted 
to explain the callousness of men of fewer sensi- 
bilities and lower moral standards, who found 
themselves far removed from the usual restraints 
of civilised society and confronted by many hard- 
ships and severe disappointments. The moral 
and physical condition of the majority of these 
men was indeed deplorable. Many of them had 
staked all they could obtain on this great ven- 
ture in the Indies, hallucinated by the craze for 
gold, of which they dreamed as lying, waiting 
to be picked up, in lands where pearls strewed the 
sands of the beach. Rapid exploitation of such 
sources of fabulous wealth and a speedy return to 
Spain, rather than the enterprises usually suggested 
to Anglo-Saxons by the term "colonisation," had 
lured them over the mysterious ocean. Little 
thought was given to the pastoral and agricultural 
resources of a rich soil that would have yielded 
abundant crops in response to the simplest tillage 

1 Hist. Apologetica, torn, v., cap. viii., p. 290. 

Condition of Colonists 37 

and made of the islands a granary sufficient to feed 
all Spain. Unaccustomed to manual labour, ig- 
norant of the simplest principles of mining, poorly 
supplied — when at all — with the necessary im- 
plements, they rushed to the mines with but scanty 
provision even of food; fevers seized them, strange 
diseases attacked them — most of all, disillusion 
confronted them; out of Ovando's 2500 men more 
than one thousand died within a brief period, in 
the most wretched manner. Those who had the 
courage and strength to work, barely made enough 
to feed themselves, for it not infrequently happened 
that after the royal fifth was deducted and other 
expenses met, the remainder, when divided, hardly 
gave to each colonist more than his daily, scanty 
living. The state of degradation into which they 
sank was pitiable and there is little cause to wonder 
that, in their brutalised condition, they took small 
account of the physical sufferings of the Indians 
and no interest at all in weighing their claims to 
liberty and just treatment. The few who did turn 
their attention to agriculture fared better, both 
as to the comforts of their surroundings and the 
profits they derived from their occupation; their 
Indians likewise led far easier lives than their fellows 
who worked for the miners. The vicious principles 
underlying slavery once established, innumerable 
abuses are bound to follow, and when responsibility 
for an iniquitous system is widely distributed, even 
the most humane unconsciously drift into acquies- 
cence in continuous and monstrous acts of inhu- 
manity, partly from want of strength to combat 

38 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the established order of things and partly from the 
easy ability of each to shift his share of the blame 
for what his instincts condemn, onto the shoulders 
of others. Reforms left to the collective conscience 
of such a community are apt to languish. Such 
is man's nature that the most unnatural and ab- 
normal conditions come to be tolerated by common 
acquiescence, until something — an event without 
or a stirring of his soul within — startles his better 
self into a realisation of his surroundings, the scales 
fall from his eyes which, having, he saw not, and 
in a flash, the iniquity of proceedings to which he 
has assented, in which he has shared, and by which 
he has profited, becomes manifest. 

In the Indies a premium was placed on rebellion; 
the oftener the Indians could be goaded into open 
revolt, the more slaves could be acquired according 
to due process of law, and everybody's profits 
increased. To such profitable encouragement the 
colonists were not slow to respond and they were 
fertile in devices for rendering the lives of the 
Indians intolerable. 

No champion was forthcoming to defend the 
helpless native or even to make his woes known; 
the tender-hearted Queen, who loved justice and 
hated iniquity, was remote and her beneficent 
intentions towards her humble subjects in the 
islands were inoperative. "The heavens are high 
and the Tzar is far" say the long-suffering mujiks, 
whose road to their "little father's" throne is barred 
by an army of interested bureaucrats. Tyranny 
is of divers sorts and one tyranny differs from an- 

Condition of Colonists 39 

other in infamy, but the worst tyranny of all is the 
dual tyranny over both body and soul exercised 
collectively by irresponsible men over their fel- 
lows, and this was the tyranny of such slavery 
as prevailed in the Spanish colonies. The specious 
argument that the only way to convert the In- 
dians was to keep them among the Spaniards, was 
constantly insisted upon in pious phrases meant 
to delude the Queen by a display of zeal in carrying 
out her plan for their conversion. Ovando wrote 
complaining of the desertion of the Indians, who 
escaped whenever they could from contact with 
the Spaniards and fled in numbers to the remotest 
recesses of the forests, facing starvation rather 
than endure their life in the settlements. And 
what wonder! for would any rational Indian volun- 
tarily live amidst such surroundings and submit to 
such labour for the sole benefit of his tyrants? 
Nothing that the afflicted natives saw of the religion 
or the civilisation of the Spaniards could possibly 
attract them to either. 



IN the month of September of the year 1510, the 
first Dominican friars, four in number, arrived 
in Hispaniola from Spain under the leadership 
of their Prior, Pedro de Cordoba, a man of gentle 
birth, distinguished appearance, gracious manners, 
and great piety. He had exceptional gifts as a 
preacher and, in selecting the men of his Order 
to accompany him, he chose those who, to their 
exemplary life and zeal for conversions, united 
facility in expounding Christian doctrine. Two, 
especially, out of his company, were men of unusual 
ability — Fray Antonio de Montesinos and Fray 
Bernardo de Santo Domingo. 

One of the colonists, Pedro Lumbreras, gave the 
missionaries shelter, and arranged to supply them 
with provisions, and the monks, without losing 
any time, set to work to improve the habits and 
morals of the easy-going Spaniards in the colony. 
The Viceroy being absent in the city of Concepcion 
de la Vega at that time, the Prior went thither to 
announce their arrival and pay his respects, accom- 
plishing the tedious journey of thirty leagues on 

foot, sleeping on the ground and living on bread 


Ordination 41 

and water. He arrived at La Vega on a Saturday, 
and the next day, being Sunday in the octave of 
All Saints, he preached a sermon on the glories 
of paradise prepared for the saints, of which Las 
Casas says, ' ' It was a sermon so lofty and so divine 
that I held myself happy to hear it." In response 
to the Prior's invitation at the close of his discourse, 
his hearers sent their Indians, men, women, and 
children, to the church, after dinner. The Prior, 
holding a crucifix in his hand, and assisted by inter- 
preters, then gave the Indians their first exposition 
of Christian doctrine, beginning with the creation of 
the world and finishing with the Crucifixion. This 
was the beginning of anything like a serious and prac- 
tical effort to carry out the reiterated instructions 
of the Spanish sovereigns to instruct the Indians 
and convert them to Christianity. 

In that same year, Las Casas took holy orders, 
and, though it is not clear whether his ordination 
occurred before or after the memorable sermon of 
Prior Pedro de Cordoba, it is evident that the 
impression he received from that discourse power- 
fully influenced him at a critical moment of his life 
and contributed to form the special vocation to 
which he afterwards devoted himself. 

His own description of his ordination is as follows : 

In this same year and in these same days, when the 
father, Fray Pedro de Cordoba went to La Vega, a 
cleric called Bartholomew de Las Casas had sung a new 
mass; he was a native of Seville and among the oldest 
[settlers] in the island, and that was the first time that 
a new mass was sung in all the Indies ; on account of 

42 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

being the first, the event was celebrated with great 
festivity by the Admiral [Don Diego Columbus] and 
everybody who was in the city of La Vega; they com- 
prised a large number of the inhabitants of the island, 
for it was smelting time, when each brought his gold 
with his Indians to have it melted, all meeting together 
as people do to make payments, in the places where 
fairs are held in Castile; as there were no gold coins, 
they made certain pieces in imitation of castellanos and 
ducats, different sorts in the same smelting, where the 
King's fifth was melted and paid ; these coins they offered 
[to the new priest] while others made arrieles 1 to offer. 
Reales -were current, and many of these were presented, 
all of which the newly ordained priest gave to his god- 
father, save a few gold pieces that were especially well 
made. There was one notable feature of this first mass 
with which the clergy present were not satisfied ; namely, 
there was not a drop of wine in the whole feast, because 
no ship having arrived from Castile since a long time, 
there was none in the entire island. 

The newly ordained priest entered immediately 
and zealously upon his duties, one of the first of 
which he considered to be the continuation of the 
religious instruction to the Indians he had seen so 
admirably initiated by Fray Pedro de Cordoba. 
He speedily acquired great fame throughout the 
colony both for his virtues and his learning, and 
his influence over the natives was established once 
and for ever. 

Don Diego Columbus undertook in 1511 to con- 

1 I have not succeeded in finding an accurate English trans- 
lation for this obsolete word. 

Conquest of Cuba 43 

quer and settle the island of Cuba, which had been 
discovered by his father, and, by virtue of the 
privileges secured to him by the capitulations of 
Granada, he named Diego Velasquez, a native of 
Cuellar and one of the oldest and most respected 
colonists in San Domingo, commander of this 
enterprise. The expedition, which consisted of 
three hundred men, amongst whom was Fernando 
Cortes, landed at a port called Las Palmas in the 
province of Maici and the conquest was quickly 
and easily effected, the natives being of a pacific 
disposition and little skilled in the use of even such 
indifferent weapons as they possessed. Thirty 
Spaniards in Jamaica, hearing of the events in Cuba, 
took service under Velasquez, who appointed Panfllo 
de Narvaez as commander under his orders. The 
campaign in Cuba was signalised by the same massa- 
cres and cruelties which marked the advance of 
Spanish civilisation throughout the Indies; the 
natives were pursued and torn to pieces by fierce 
dogs, burned alive, their hands and feet cut off, 
and the miserable, terrified remnant speedily reduced 
to a condition of hopeless slavery. The so-called 
war ended with the execution of the Cacique Hatuey, 
and in the early part of 15 12, Diego Velasquez sent 
for Las Casas to join him from Hispaniola. At 
that juncture there arrived in the port of Baracoa 
a vessel commanded by Cristobal de Cuellas, who 
brought with him his daughter, the promised bride 
of Velasquez. The Governor absented himself for 
the celebration of his marriage, leaving his kinsman 
Juan de Grijalva in command of fifty men during 

44 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

his absence, and charging Las Casas to act as 
assistant and counsellor to Grijalva, who was a 
beardless youth and, though of excellent disposition, 
was without experience. The news of Las Casas 's 
presence quickly spread amongst the Indians of 
Bayamo, who had fled in terror before the horses 
of Narvaez into the province of Camaguey, and, 
feeling reassured and confident of protection, they 
now began to return little by little, asking pardon 
for the opposition they had made to the Spanish 
force and offering to assist and serve the invaders. 
The veneration of the natives for Las Casas, their 
only friend, was a most touching thing to see, for 
they trusted him without reserve, believing him to 
be omnipotent and knowing him to be good; they 
called him by the same title, Behique, which they 
gave to their own magicians and both reverenced 
and feared him as being almost divine. As the 
tribes came in, bringing gifts to the Spanish com- 
mander, they also brought offerings to Las Casas 
and when assured by him that the past was pardoned 
and forgotten, their confidence was completely 

Peace being thus established in the province of 
Bayamo, Velasquez sent orders to Narvaez that 
he should advance into the province of Camaguey 
with all the force he had, which, united to that of 
Grijalva, amounted to about one hundred men, and 
that Las Casas should accompany the expedition. 

The spiritual and martial forces seemed to work 
in harmony; Grijalva was obedient to the counsels 
of Las Casas, and Narvaez, although a hardened 

Conquest of Cuba 45 

campaigner and a man of violent temperament, 
was not indifferent to the priest's influence, backed 
as he knew it to be by the warm personal support 
of his Governor, Velasquez. Some thirty leagues 
from Bayamo, and before entering the province 
of Camaguey, the expedition arrived at a town 
called Cueyba, where they were well received by 
the Indians and where they found, in a sort of 
chapel, a statue of the Blessed Virgin which had 
been presented to the cacique some time before 
by Alonso de Ojeda who, after shipwreck and untold 
hardships, had reached that place and been cared 
for by the natives. Ojeda had carried this image 
for many weary days, confiding in its protection 
to rescue him from the dangerous plight in which 
he found himself, and some of his companions who 
were now with the Narvaez party praised its beauty 
so highly to Las Casas that he conceived the idea 
of offering to trade for it a very good Flemish statue 
of his own. His proposal, however, was not agree- 
able to the cacique, who had, on his part, become 
much attached to his own image, and the next 
morning when Las Casas went to the little chapel, 
which the Indians kept nicely adorned with cotton 
hangings and flowers, he was surprised to see that 
the statue was missing from its customary place 
above the altar. Upon inquiry he was told by 
the Indians that their chief, fearing that he would 
be forced to accept Las Casas' s offer to exchange, 
had taken his statue and fled into the forests to 
save it. There was even a fear that a general 
uprising might result to defend the cherished 

46 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

statue, so Las Casas at once sent messengers to the 
cacique to assure him that he not only no longer 
wished to make the exchange but had decided 
to make him a present of his own Flemish statue 
as well. 

Twenty leagues beyond Cueyba the expedition 
entered the province of Camaguey, and, at the en- 
trance of the various towns, the Indians came out 
to welcome the Spaniards, offering them provisions 
of fish, game, and cassava. Las Casas called to- 
gether the children everywhere and baptised them, 
concerning which he afterwards said that many were 
thus destined for glory in good time, for shortly 
afterwards there was hardly one of those children 
left alive. 

Nothing inspired more wonder in the Indians than 
the transmission of news from one place to another 
by means of writing, and the letters the Spaniards 
sent to one another excited the greatest awe amongst 
them. So great had the influence of Las Casas 
amongst them become, that he had only to send any 
piece of paper fastened to the end of a stick, carried 
by a messenger who had been instructed to say what 
he wanted, for his orders to be scrupulously obeyed; 
without the paper, the verbal message was shorn of 
its authority, with the paper it commanded entire 
obedience. To forestall excesses on the part of 
the soldiers, Las Casas hit upon the device of send- 
ing a messenger ahead, carrying one of these papers, 
to tell the Indians that the expedition was approach- 
ing and that he desired them to have provisions 
ready and to vacate one part of their village which 

Conquest of Cuba 47 

the Spaniards might occupy. The messenger an- 
nounced these dispositions, which must be obeyed 
under pain of the Behique's displeasure, and the 
Spaniards, on their arrival, invariably found every- 
thing prepared for them and free quarters in which 
to lodge. Narvaez agreed to give strict orders to 
his men to keep to their own part of the village, and 
any one who violated this command or sought to 
mix with the Indians was punished. 

At a village called Caonao, one of the character- 
istic pieces of inexplicable cruelty, that so frequently 
occurred, took place. Before reaching that town, 
the expedition had stopped to eat in a dry river bed 
{barranca) , where there was a quantity of soapstone 
on which the men sharpened their weapons. Upon 
entering the town and before taking possession of 
their quarters, they found some two thousand In- 
dians peaceably squatting about the square, after their 
fashion, curious to see them and observe the move- 
ments of the wonderful horses at which they never 
tired of looking. While the provisions which the 
Indians had got ready were being distributed, 
somebody — it was never discovered who — with- 
out cause or rhyme or reason suddenly ran amok, 
drew his sword, and began slashing right and left 
amongst the defenceless natives, and, as though 
crazed, the other soldiers fell to work in the same 
fashion, so that, before one half the Indians realised 
what was happening, the place was piled with dead 
and wounded. Narvaez looked on unmoved, but 
Las Casas, who was not in the square when the 
massacre began, hearing what was afoot, rushed 

48 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

thither in rage and despair to stop the slaughter. 
"What do you think of what our Spaniards have 
done?" Narvaez coolly asked him, and the priest 
in a fury replied: "To the devil with you and your 
Spaniards." He finally succeeded in arresting the 
butchery, not forgetting, in the midst of all, to 
administer baptism to the dying. His indignation 
on this occasion burst all bounds and, from his own 
description, it may be inferred that his language 
towards his countrymen was not in strict conformity 
with sacerdotal usage. No sufficient explanation 
of this lamentable occurrence has ever been given, 
but Las Casas says that if the man who began the 
massacre was the one he suspected, he later met a 
dreadful death. It has been alleged that a soldier 
mistook some movement of the crowd in pressing 
forward to see the horses, for a beginning of hos- 
tilities, and, as there had been a surprise practised 
on Narvaez's men a short time before in Bayamo, 
the man was seized with a sudden panic of fear 
that the little force of one hundred men was about 
to be attacked and overcome by mere force of 
numbers while off their guard, lost his head, and 
began to use his sword; the others, seeing their 
comrade fighting, rushed into the melee and before 
reason could get the upper hand, the mischief 
was done. The natural consequence of this un- 
provoked massacre was a general flight of the 
Indians from their towns, all who could, taking 
refuge in the neighbouring islands. 

The Spanish camp was established near Caonao 
and one day shortly after the massacre an old 

Conquest of Cuba 49 

Indian servant of Las Casas, called Camacho, came 
to him to say that a young man about twenty-five 
years old and his younger brother had returned and 
begged to be admitted as servants into his house- 
hold. This young Indian was baptised under the 
name of Adrianico and served as interpreter and 
intermediary to induce the other Indians to return 
to their villages, so that little by little some degree 
of peace and tranquillity was established throughout 
the province. The Governor quickly discovered 
that the simplest means of securing obedience was 
to send a messenger bearing any bit of paper on 
a stick, to say in the name of Las Casas whatever 
was to be done, and this became the means usually 
employed to maintain order. Thousands of the 
natives were instructed and baptised during this 
expedition. It was at this time that news was 
received of the existence of several Spanish prisoners 
held by a cacique, in the province of Havana, some 
hundred leagues distant, and Las Casas sent his 
habitual Indian messenger carrying the sacred 
paper to tell that cacique that the paper meant 
he was to send those prisoners at once, under pain 
of the Behique's severest displeasure. After the 
departure of this messenger, the Spaniards struck 
their camp and went on to a place called Carahale, 
which Las Casas named Casaharta on account of 
the abundance of excellent provisions they received 
there; these seem to have consisted principally of 
parrots, of which the Spaniards consumed no less 
than 10,000 beautifully plumaged birds in the brief 
period of fifteen days they stopped there. Indeed, 

50 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the amount the Spaniards ate amazed the frugal 
natives, for it took more to feed a soldier for one 
day than an Indian family required in a month. 
At this place there arrived one day a canoe, in 
which were two Spanish women, in the costume 
of Mother Eve, one of them about forty years old 
and the other eighteen. They were the prisoners 
sent back from Havana by the cacique who had 
meanwhile received the magic paper ordering their 
release. They described the slaughter of some 
Spaniards upon their arrival at the port which, 
since that time, has consequently been called Matan- 
zas; several had managed to defend themselves 
but had afterwards been hanged by a cacique on 
a ceiba tree, leaving only the two women, whose 
lives were spared. This news so irritated Narvaez 
that he ordered eighteen caciques who had come in 
response to Las Casas's papers, bringing food for 
the Spaniards, to be put in chains, and but for the 
priest's threat that he would have him severely 
punished by Velasquez, and even report the case 
to the King, he would have hanged them. Las 
Casas, by his vigorous and menacing attitude, se- 
cured the immediate release of all the caciques 
but one, who was kept a prisoner until Diego Velas- 
quez joined the expedition and released him. 1 

At another village, a Spaniard, also a survivor of 
the Matanzas massacre, was brought forward and 
delivered to the Spaniards by the cacique, who de- 
clared he loved him and had treated him as his own 
son. Great rejoicing celebrated the finding of this 

i Herrera, dec. i., lib. ix., cap. xviii. 

Conquest of Cuba 51 

man, and both Las Casas and Narvaez embraced 
the cacique with fervour. The Spaniard had 
nearly forgotten his mother-tongue and was in 
all respects so entirely like the Indians in his man- 
ners and ways that every one laughed a good deal 
at him. Little by little he recovered the use of his 
Spanish and was able to give much information 
concerning the country. 

Upon the arrival of Diego Velasquez, whose 
bride had died very shortly after her marriage, a 
town was founded on the banks of a large river, 
called by the Indians the Arimao, where very rich 
gold-mines were discovered. In this newly founded 
town of Xagua, as it was named, Las Casas received 
a valuable repartimiento of land and Indians in recog- 
nition of the services he had rendered during the ex- 
peditions, for, though he was the enemy of all cruel 
treatment and the protector of the natives against 
his callous-hearted countrymen, his conscience on the 
subject of repartimientos was not yet fully awakened. 

During his residence in the island of Hispaniola, 
Las Casas had been close friends with a man named 
Renteria, whom he describes as a most virtuous, 
prudent, charitable, and devout Christian, given 
entirely to the things of God and religion and little 
versed in the things of this world, to which he paid 
small attention; he was so open-handed by instinct 
that his generosity was almost the vice of careless- 
ness rather than a virtue. He was pure and humble 
in his life and was a man of some learning, devoted 
to the study of the Scriptures and commentaries 
in the Latin tongue, and was a skilful penman. 

52 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Pedro de la Renteria, to whom Diego Velasquez 
had given the office of alcalde in the island of Cuba, 
was a Biscayan, son of a native of Guipuzcoa, and 
such was the intimacy between him and Las Casas 
in Hispaniola that they shared their possessions 
in common, though in the management of their 
affairs, it was the latter who took the direction 
entirely, as being the more capable and practical 
of the two. 1 

Upon Pedro de la Renteria, the Governor con- 
ferred a repartimiento of lands and Indians ad- 
joining the one given to Las Casas and the two 
had their business interests in common. Las 
Casas owns, with compunction, that he became so 
absorbed at that time in developing his new estates 
and working his mines that what should have been 
his principal care, the instruction of the Indians, 
fell into the second place, though despite his tem- 
porary blindness to his higher duties, he protests 
that, as far as their temporal wants were concerned, 
he was humane and kind, both from his naturally 
benevolent instincts and from his understanding 
of the law of God. This we may easily believe 
to be the case and, though his zealous soul may 
afterwards, when all his energies of body and mind 
were exclusively dedicated to his apostolate, have 
found grounds for self-reproach for neglecting the 
spiritual wants of his Indians at that time, it is more 
than probable that, even so, his care of them might 
well have served as a pattern to his fellow-colonists 
and more than satisfied the natives, who adored him. 

1 Hist. Gen., torn, iv., cap. xxxii. 





THE company of four Dominican monks under 
their Prior, Pedro de Cordoba, had been 
increased until their community numbered 
twelve or fifteen men, the severity of whose rule 
had been much augmented in the New World in 
order to maintain the just proportion between their 
penitential lives and the hard conditions of the col- 
ony in which they lived. Their observation of what 
was happening around them and of the injustice 
and cruelty daily practised on the natives in defiance 
of the wishes of the Spanish sovereigns, forced upon 
them the duty of protesting against such violation 
of all laws, human and divine. They had re- 
ceived into their community, as a lay-brother, a 
man who, two years before, had murdered his Indian 
wife and had afterwards fled to the forests where 
he lived as best he could. The information fur- 
nished by this repentant criminal still further am- 
plified the insight of the monks into the treatment 
meted out to the Indians and quickened their 
determination to attempt to stay the iniquities 
of their countrymen. 


54 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

The first man to raise his voice publicly in Amer- 
ica against slavery and all forms of oppression of 
the Indians was Fray Antonio de Montesinos, who 
preached to the colonists of Santo Domingo a dis- 
course, of which unfortunately no full report now 
exists. The monks had made a point of inviting 
the Viceroy, the Treasurer, Passamonte, and all the 
officials to be present in church on the Sunday 
fixed for the sermon, and it was known throughout 
the colony that a matter of particular importance 
was to be the subject of the discourse, though no 
one suspected its nature. The text chosen was 
from St. John: "I am the voice of one crying in the 
wilderness," and the friar, who was blessed with 
the dual gifts of eloquence and moral courage, 
drove his arguments and admonitions home with 
such force that, though he was heard to the close 
without interruption, the principal persons of the 
colony held a meeting after church and decided 
that the preaching of such revolutionary doctrines 
must be silenced. They repaired to the monastery 
to make their protest, and to demand that Fray 
Antonio should retract or modify his words the 
following Sunday. The Prior received the angry 
deputation and, after listening to their demands, in- 
formed them that the discourse preached by Fray 
Antonio represented the sentiments of the entire 
Dominican community and had been pronounced 
with his full approbation. The colonists became 
only the more enraged at this answer and declared 
that, unless the preacher retracted, the monks should 
pack their goods and return to Spain, Jo which the 

Fray Antonio de Montesinos 55 

Prior with quiet irony replied: "Of a truth, gentle- 
men, that will give us little trouble"; which indeed 
was the fact, for Las Casas says that all they pos- 
sessed of books, vestments, and clothing would have 
gone into two trunks. The most that the Prior 
would concede was that the subject should be 
treated again on the following Sunday. 

Fray Antonio once more ascended the pulpit 
and before the assembled colony announced his 
text: "Repetam scientiam meam a principio et 
operator em meum probabo justum" (Job xxxvi. 3). 
Not only did he repeat the sense of what he had 
already said, but he elaborated still more forcibly 
his theme, and ended by announcing that the 
sacraments of the Church would henceforth be 
refused to all who persisted in the evil courses he 
denounced, and defying his hearers to complain 
of him in Spain. 

Amongst the men on whose startled ears these 
denunciations fell, were hidalgos of high birth, 
reduced by reckless courses to expatriate them- 
selves in search of fortunes with which to return 
and resume their extravagances in Spain; con- 
temptuous of all forms of labour, they passed their 
enforced exile in gambling, dicing, and debauchery 
in the company of their Indian mistresses, chosen 
among the native beauties. They alternately 
courted the favour of the Viceroy or intrigued- 
against him as seemed most profitable to their 
interests; they displayed few of the virtues 
and most of the vices common to their class 
in Spain. Others belonged in the unfailing and 

56 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

numerous category of adventurers, ever ready to 
play a new stake in a new country ; they constituted 
an equally reckless but more resourceful element 
in the colony, though their contribution to the 
moral tone of the community was likewise insig- 
nificant. Columbus had sought and obtained an 
authorisation to deport from Spain criminals under 
sentence of either partial or perpetual banishment, 
while other delinquents had had their sentences 
remitted on condition that they would emigrate 
to the Indies. So dissolute was the general tone 
of the colonies and so depraved the habits of many 
of the colonists that Columbus could, with sincerity, 
exclaim, "I vow that numbers of men have gone 
to the Indies who did not deserve water from God 

or man. ' : 

Las Casas, who loved sinners as much as he 
loathed sin, observed this motley population with 
a more tolerant eye and affirmed that even amongst 
those who had lost their ears, he still found suffi- 
ciently honest men; it was not difficult to lose 
one's ears in those days. The voice of Fray An- 
tonio cried indeed in a moral wilderness! But 
however far these men had strayed from the true 
spirit of their religion, they had no intention of 
foregoing the ministrations of the church, and they 
clung tenaciously to the outward observance of 
forms and ceremonies as an offset against their lax 
conformity to its moral precepts. 

To be thus placed between the ban of excom- 
munication and the renunciation of their illegally 
held slaves, was an intolerable prospect. Appeal 

Fray Antonio de Montesinos 57 

or protest to the Prior being useless, they despatched 
a complaint to the King and chose for the bearer 
of it a Franciscan friar, Alonso de Espinal, who 
was instructed to unite his efforts to those of two 
other agents, who had already been sent to obtain 
an extension of the encomienda privileges. The 
Dominicans sent as their representative to contest 
the case, the offending preacher himself, some 
generous sympathisers having been found in the 
colony to furnish the money for the expenses of his 

The advocate for the colonists found all doors 
open to him and his way made easy, for there were 
not a few of the courtiers and other great per- 
sonages in Spain who derived large profits from the 
abusive traffic in the Indies, but the Dominican 
was friendless and met with obstacles on every 
hand which barred his access to the King. He 
managed after some exercise of patience to outwit 
the gentlemen in attendance, and, forcing his way 
into the King's presence, begged to be heard. Upon 
receiving the royal permission to speak, the monk 
unfolded such a tale that the King sat stupefied 
with horror at his ghastly recital. "Did your 
Highness order such deeds to be done?'' asked 
the monk. "No, by God, never on my life," re- 
plied the King. The immediate result of King 
Ferdinand's aroused conscience was, that a com- 
mission was formed to inquire into the case and to 
take information on which to base a report to his 
Majesty. The sense of this report was that the 
Indians were freemen, but must be instructed in 

58 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the Christian religion; that they might be made 
to labour, but not in such wise as to hinder their 
conversion nor in excess of their strength; that 
they should have houses and be allowed sufficient 
time to cultivate their own lands; that they should 
be kept in touch with the Christians and that they 
should be paid wages for their work, which might 
be in clothing and furnishings rather than in money. 

While the discussions inside the commission were 
going on, the agents of the colonists were active 
in presenting their side of the case. Fray Antonio 
was likewise losing no time, and was astonish- 
ingly successful in that he won over the very 
Franciscan whom the colonists had sent to plead 
their cause, and converted him into his staunch 
ally and supporter. 

The outcome of this controversy was the code 
of laws promulgated at Burgos on Dec. 27, 15 12, 
and known as the Laws of Burgos. They were 
afterwards considerably added to by another com- 
mission, in which the Prior, Pedro de Cordoba, who 
had come to Spain and seen the King, sat, and their 
provisions, had they been conscientiously carried 
out in the sense their framers designed, would have 
considerably ameliorated the condition of the In- 
dians. They constitute the first public recognition 
of the rights of the Indians and an attempt, at 
least, to amend their wrongs. 

Three years elapsed between the date of Fray 
Antonio's first courageous plea on behalf of the 
Indians and the entrance of Las Casas upon the 
active apostolate in their favour, to which the re- 

Awakening of Las Casas 59 

mainder of his long life was devoted. There being 
no other priest at hand, Las Casas was invited to 
say mass and preach at Baracoa on the feast of 
Pentecost in 15 14, and in searching the Scriptures 
for a suitable text he happened upon the follow- 
ing verses in the thirty-fourth chapter of Ecclesi- 
asticus, which arrested his attention and started the 
train of reasoning destined to produce great results. 

He that sacrificeth of a thing wrongfully gotten, his 
offering is ridiculous, and the gifts of unjust men are not 

The most High is not pleased with the offerings of the 
wicked; neither is He pacified for sin by the multitude 
of sacrifices. 

Whoso bringeth an offering of the goods of the poor 
doeth as one that killeth the son before his father's eyes. 

The bread of the needy is their life ; he that defraudeth 
him thereof is a man of blood. 

He that taketh away his neighbour's living, slayeth 
him ; and he that defraudeth the labourer of his hire is a 

The perusal of these simply worded texts, replete 
with terrible significance, quickened the conscience 
of Las Casas more powerfully than the spectacle 
of actual enormities happening daily for years 
under his very eyes, though doubtless the in- 
fluence of these many occurrences was cumulative 
and had led him, gradually and unconsciously, up 
to the state when but a touch was necessary to 
strip the last disguise from the heinous abuses 
practised in the colony. Until then he had been 

6o Bartholomew de Las Casas 

zealous in protecting the Indians against massacre 
and pillage, but to the injustice of the servitude 
imposed upon them, he was insensible, and he 
recounts humbly enough that he had himself once 
been refused the sacraments by a Dominican friar 
in Hispaniola — possibly the redoubtable Montesinos 
himself — because he was a slave-holder. He sus- 
tained a discussion on the subject with the obdurate 
monk, whom he describes as a worthy and learned 
man, but to little purpose, and the Dominican 
wound up by telling him that "the truth has ever 
had many enemies, and falsehood many defenders." 
Las Casas, though somewhat impressed by what 
had passed between them, took no heed of the 
admonition to release his Indians, and sought 
absolution from a more lenient confessor. 

Much time and many terrible experiences were 
required to germinate and develop the seed the 
Dominicans had sown in his soul, but the day of 
fruition came with the peaceful preparation of a 
discourse suitable for the glorious feast of Pentecost, 
the birthday of the Church, into whose perpetual 
custody were committed the doctrines of Christ, 
to be infallibly guarded. Instead of disbursing 
these spiritual treasures to the humble Indians 
amongst whom he lived as a superior being, almost 
deified in their simple minds, he had profited by 
their labours as selfishly as the most godless layman 
in the island, without making an effort to gather 
them into one fold, under one shepherd, which, 
as a Christian priest, should have been his chief 

Awakening of Las Casas 61 

But if the awakening was slow, it was complete, 
and Las Casas was not one to shrink from following 
his beliefs to their logical conclusions; not only was 
his newly formed conviction that the treatment 
accorded to the Indians was a flagrant violation of 
all justice, and one that merited condemnation in 
this world and condign punishment in the next, 
absolute, but the first consequence following from 
it, and which seemed to him imperative, was that 
he should forthwith set the example to his fellow- 
colonists of freeing his serfs; the second was the 
devotion of all his powers to making others see the 
wickedness of the system by which they profited, and 
the terrible moral responsibility they would incur 
by persisting in it. He formed his determination 
to preach this crusade in season and out and to 
henceforth use every weapon in defence of the 
downtrodden natives. 

Although he treated his own Indians kindly, 
and he well knew that if he renounced his encom- 
ienda their condition would doubtless be worse 
under the power of their new owner than before, 
Las Casas perceived how impossible it would be to 
preach justice for the Indians while he himself 
held them in bondage. 

He went to the Governor, Diego Velasquez, and 
opened his mind fully on the subject, declaring 
that as his conscience no longer permitted him to 
hold his Indians in subjection, he had come to 
surrender them; and, admonishing the Governor 
of his own grave responsibility, he announced that 
henceforth his mission would be to preach this 

62 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

doctrine. He desired for the moment that his 
resolution should not be made public until the 
return to Cuba of his friend and partner, Renteria, 
who was at that time absent in Jamaica buying 
pigs and farm seeds. 

The Governor listened with amazement to this 
new and, to him, monstrous doctrine and, out of 
friendly interest for Las Casas, and possibly think- 
ing that his present intentions might subside if 
the renunciation of his property could be deferred, 
he counselled him to go slowly, saying, "Look well, 
father, to what you are doing, lest you may repent, 
for before God I would wish to see you rich and 
prosperous." He urged him to take fifteen days 
for careful consideration of the matter and to then 
return and discuss his intentions. This did not 
suit the temper of Las Casas who answered: "My 
lord, I am much honoured by your desire for my 
prosperity and for all the other favours you do 
me; but consider, my lord, that the fifteen days 
have passed, and should I repent of my intention 
I have expressed to you and desire to hold the 
Indians, and should you, out of the regard you bear 
me, wish me to keep them or to renew your grant 
to me, may it please God to punish you severely, 
nor to pardon you this sin. I only beg your 
lordship that all this shall remain secret and that 
you will not grant the Indians to any one, until 
Renteria's return, so that his affairs may sustain 
no damage." 

The Governor reluctantly agreed and his respect 
for Las Casas being much increased, he thence- 

Pedro de la Renteria 63 

forward consulted him in all that concerned the 
welfare of the Indians. 

On the feast of the Assumption, Las Casas preached 
a sermon on the contemplative, as compared with 
the active life, in the course of which he yielded to 
an impulse to make his intention publicly known. 
Turning towards the Governor's seat, he said: 
"My lord, I give you permission to tell to all what 
we have privately agreed upon between us, and I 
avail myself of the same to announce it to all here 
present." He then launched into a fervid dis- 
course upon the blindness, the injustice, the tyranny 
and cruelty that marked the colonists' treatment 
of the Indians, declaring that their salvation was 
to be despaired of unless they liberated their slaves 
and treated the natives humanely. The assembly 
was moved to mingled admiration and astonish- 
ment, for most of the colonists would as soon 
have thought it a sin to work their beasts of burden 
as their Indians, so deeply ingrained was their belief 
that the natives were created to serve them. Some 
were stimulated to sentiments of compunction, but 
not to the extent of imitating the preacher's heroic 
example of renouncing the source of his income in 
deference to his moral principles. 1 

While Las Casas was passing through these ex- 
periences in Cuba, his friend and partner, Renteria, 
was, by a singular coincidence, arriving at analogous 
convictions concerning the Indians and pondering 
upon the formation of some plan by which the 
diminishing remnant of them might be rescued 

1 Hist. Gen., torn, iii., cap. 78. 

64 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

from servitude and converted to the Christian 
religion. During lent of that year he made a 
retreat in a Franciscan monastery in Jamaica, 
whither, as has been said, he had gone to procure 
farm stock. During this period of seclusion from 
temporal distractions, he came to the conclusion 
that the best means to benefit the natives would 
be to found several schools or colleges into which 
the Indian boys and younger men might be col- 
lected, and he formed the determination to go 
himself, if necessary, to Spain and seek royal ap- 
proval and support for this project. Las Casas had 
meantime become so impatient of further delay 
in beginning his labours that, having made public 
his intentions, he abandoned his original idea of 
waiting for Renteria's return before starting for 
Spain. Although he was without funds and had 
no means of getting any save by the sale of a mare 
worth a hundred pesos of gold, he wrote to Renteria 
telling him that he was about leaving Cuba for 
Spain on business of great importance, so that, if 
his friend wished to see him before he started, he 
must hasten back from Jamaica. Renteria, in 
consequence, finished his business in the island and 
returned as quickly as possible to Cuba, where he 
was met upon landing by the Governor, Las Casas, 
and numerous others, for he was a very popular 
and much esteemed man in the colony. It was 
only when the two friends finally found themselves 
alone that an exchange of confidences became 
possible, and Renteria, yielding to the insistence 
of Las Casas, unfolded his plan for the establish- 

Pedro de la Renteria 65 

ment of Indian schools. Each in turn was sur- 
prised and gratified to learn the project of the other 
and, after some discussion and arguments, it was 
decided that, of the two, Las Casas was the one 
who must go to Spain. Renteria disposed of his 
Jamaica purchases and, out of the profits, furnished 
his friend with money enough to defray the ex- 
penses of what was foreseen would be a long and 
doubtless costly sojourn at court. 

At this same juncture, the Dominican Prior in 
Santo Domingo sent four of his monks to establish 
a community in Cuba, choosing as their Prior, Fray 
Bernardo, who is described as both a pious and a 
learned man. The Governor of Cuba received 
these religious with great satisfaction, but to no 
one did their coming afford greater joy than to Las 
Casas. The Dominicans began a series of earnest 
and edifying sermons, in the course of which prac- 
tical applications of Scripture texts were made to 
the actual condition of affairs in the colony; and, 
by using the information furnished them by Las 
Casas, the preachers were able to make very forcible 
home thrusts on the subject of the injustice of the 
system of serfage and the grave responsibility of those 
Spaniards who oppressed the Indians. These ser- 
mons disturbed the conscience of the colonists but 
not to the point of amending their evil system, so 
the chief result was a general feeling of dissatisfaction 
within themselves and one of intensified exasper- 
ation towards the preachers of such uncomfortable 
doctrine. The monks, on their part, realising that 
it was idle to combat with purely spiritual weapons 

66 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

a system of evils which everybody was interested 
in maintaining, perceived their only hope of success 
lay in having their hands strengthened by royal 
support, and accordingly their Prior decided to go 
to Spain with Las Casas, where they might co- 
operate in their undertaking. 





LAS CASAS was fully conscious of the hostility his 
mission was bound to provoke, and how odious 
he would make himself, not only to the colon- 
ists, but also to the members of the India Council, the 
courtiers, and to many influential persons in Spain, 
all of whom had investments in the colonies and 
drew incomes from the very abuses he was 
to combat; he therefore took the precaution 
of drawing up a sworn and witnessed statement, 
ad perpetuam rei memoriam, with the legal for- 
malities dear to Spanish usage, in which he recounted 
all the services of every kind that he had rendered 
in the colonies. Lest obstacles might be put in the 
way of his departure, he resorted to a little dis- 
simulation and caused the report to be spread that 
he intended to go to Paris to finish his law studies 
and take his degree at the university there. The 
colonists, including the Governor, were duped by 
this subterfuge and he departed in company with 
the Prior, who took with him a deacon of his 
order, Fray Diego de Alberca. The first stage 
of their journey was to Hispaniola, where the 


68 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Prior was seized by a severe illness, to which he 
succumbed in the town of San Juan de la Maguana. 

In the city of Santo Domingo, Las Casas en- 
countered his old friend and precursor in the de- 
fence of the Indians, Prior Pedro de Cordoba, to 
whom he recounted all that had befallen him in 
Cuba, his newly found vocation, and his intention 
to visit Spain and lay the case for the Indians 
before the King. The Prior praised his resolution, 
but in wishing him all success, he explained the 
situation he would find awaiting him in Spain, 
where the all-powerful Bishop of Burgos, who was 
at the head of Indian affairs, and the royal Secre- 
tary, Lope Conchillos, were entirely in favour of 
the system of repartimientos and encomiendas, 
being themselves shareholders in colonial enter- 
prises. As not uncommonly happens, it was on the 
estates of such absentee owners that the Indians 
were most cruelly handled, being mercilessly over- 
worked by overseers anxious to curry favour at 
home by the remittance of ever-increasing revenues. 

Although he was sufficiently impressed by what 
he heard, the zeal of the new apostle was undimin- 
ished. The Dominican community in Hispaniola 
being in sad need of funds, the Prior decided to 
profit by the occasion and to send one of his monks 
with Las Casas to Spain to solicit aid. He chose for 
this mission the same Fray Antonio de Montesinos, 
whose earnestness in behalf of the natives rendered 
him a sympathetic companion, while his own ex- 
perience in handling the question in Spain, promised 
to be of great assistance to Las Casas. They 

ch he 


but him al 

id find av 

p of Burgos 

royal Secre- 
Cardinal Ximenez de Cisneros ur of 

From a relief preserved in the Universidad Central. 
Photo by J. Laurent & Co., Madrid 

by C 

he he 
ng in s; 

the < 
ts Casas I 
-n the 

thing tl 
i, ass 




own ex- 

, promised 

as. Th 

Negotiations 69 

sailed in September, 1515, and after a prosperous 
voyage arrived safely at Seville, where Montesinos 
lodged in the monastery of his Order, while Las 
Casas was given hospitality by his relatives. 

The Archbishop of Seville at that time was Fray 
Diego de Deza, a Dominican who stood high in King 
Ferdinand's favour, and the first service Montesinos 
rendered his companion was to present him to the 
Archbishop, to whom he had already given some 
account of the objects which brought them both 
to Spain, and of the zeal of Las Casas in a cause 
which the Dominican Order had made peculiarly its 
own. It required no persuasion to enlist the good 
offices of the Archbishop, who was in entire sym- 
pathy with their undertaking and promptly fur- 
nished Las Casas with a warm letter to the King, 
commending both the cause and its advocate. To 
facilitate his approach to the King, he furnished 
Las Casas also with letters to influential persons in 
the royal household. 

No better beginning could have been desired, 
and Las Casas set out for Plasencia where the King 
then was, arriving there a few days before Christmas 
in the year 151 5. Thanks to the counsels and 
information given him by Montesinos, Las Casas 
knew something of the court and upon what per- 
sons he might count, who might still be won over, 
and who were to be avoided. Among these last, 
the most notorious and powerful opponents were 
the Bishop of Burgos and the Secretary, Lope Con- 
chillos. Whatever virtues the former may have 
possessed they were certainly not of the apostolic 

70 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

order and his appointment to the high office of 
President of the India Council was one of the 
earliest and greatest calamities that overtook 
American interests. Las Casas was careful, there- 
fore, to defer meeting these two personages and to 
refrain from disclosing the object of his presence 
until he should have first secured a hearing from 
the King, whose sympathy he hoped to enlist before 
his opponents could prejudice the monarch against 
him. Again fortune favoured him, and two days 
before Christmas he was closeted with the King, 
"and explained in the fullest detail the state of things 
in the islands; the extinction of the natives, which 
was following rapidly on the barbarities and ra- 
pacity of the Spaniards, and the violation of the 
royal provisions which the benevolence of the late 
Queen and the sagacity of the King had decreed. 
He was astute enough to couple with the argument 
that these iniquities lay heavily on the royal con- 
science, the assurance that the revenues from the 
Indies would infallibly diminish until they ceased 
altogether, unless these crying abuses were 
corrected. In this conversation the charming 
personality, cultivated intelligence, and earnest 
convictions of Las Casas told powerfully, and 
he recounted horrifying incidents to the astonished 
sovereign which, it may be rightly imagined, lost 
nothing in the recital by such an eloquent and 
fervent advocate. Again he was completely suc- 
cessful, for King Ferdinand promised him another 
and longer audience before Easter in which he 
would go more fully into the matter. He slyly 

Negotiations 7 1 

notes, in closing his own description of the audience 
and its results, that neither Conchillos nor the 
Bishop of Burgos was much overjoyed when they 
heard from the King what subject was under 

Diego Velasquez was well aware that Las Casas 
would spare no means to carry on his propaganda 
and that his first step would doubtless be to engage 
the attention of the Admiral, Diego Columbus, 
whose lieutenant Velasquez was, and that of the 
King as well, if he could reach him. He wrote 
therefore to the Treasurer, Passamonte, who in 
turn wrote to Conchillos and the Bishop of 
Burgos warning them of what was on foot. 

The monks of the Dominican Order were, in those 
days, to be found in many posts of influence, not 
the least of which was that of confessor to the 
King, and to Fray Tomas de Matiencio, the ghostly 
father of King Ferdinand, Las Casas did not fail to 
go at the outset. Matiencio had already shown 
pronounced sympathy with the cause of the Indians 
and was, therefore, to be counted upon as a firm 
ally, both because of his personal convictions and 
for motives of solidarity with his Order. Through 
his confessor, Ferdinand sent to tell Las Casas that 
he should preceed him to Seville and wait for his 
arrival there, when the promised audience would be 
granted him ; the King's departure was fixed for the 
fourth day after Christmas, so it may be seen that this 
affair did not drag just then at the Spanish court. 
The confessor also advised Las Casas not to avoid 
the Bishop of Burgos and Conchillos; but, on the 

7 2 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

contrary, to go openly to both and to explain as 
frankly to them as he had done to the King, the 
exact condition of the Indians, the motives which 
had prompted him to intervene, and the measures 
he judged necessary to stop the depopulation and 
ruin of the colonies. Matiencio reasoned that, as 
the matter must ultimately come into the hands 
of these two men, and as they had to be reckoned 
with, it was far wiser to give them the fullest in- 
formation at the outset, hoping also that Las Casas' s 
moving description of the sufferings the Indians 
endured might modify their opposition. This 
counsel did not accord with the plan of Las Casas 
but he allowed his judgment to be overruled by the 
royal confessor's advice and sought out Conchillos 
as being the less intractable of the two. The letter 
from the Archbishop of Seville procured him a 
courteous reception and had he come seeking a 
benefice or some preferment from the King, he 
might have counted upon the favour and assistance 
of the Secretary to advance his suit, but, as he 
piously phrases it, he had, by divine mercy, been 
rescued from the darkness in which, like all the 
others, he had wandered, a lost man, and was liber- 
ated from all desire for any temporal benefits. 
Save the gracious words and courtly blandishments 
which Conchillos showered upon him, nothing re- 
sulted from the interview. 

His reception by the Bishop of Burgos was of a 
totally different order and, though it is to be lamented 
that this prelate did not possess more of the virtues 
becoming his state, it must be noted in his favour 

Negotiations 73 

that hypocrisy was wanting in his unlovely character. 
Amongst other atrocities which Las Casas brought 
to his attention was the death of seven thousand 
Indian children within three months, on which 
he dwelt, hoping to touch some humane chord in 
the Bishop. He was deceived. "Look what an 
ignorant fool you are!" exclaimed his lordship. 
"What is this to me or what to the King?" This 
rough answer goaded his patience beyond control 
and Las Casas shouted in reply: "That all these 
souls perish is nothing to you and nothing to the 
King! Oh, Eternal God! then to whom is it 
anything?" With this he left the Bishop's 

The activity of Las Casas, his earnestness and his 
eloquence produced immediate effects, for he forced 
Indian affairs upon the languid attention of in- 
different people and aroused so much interest in 
them that they became a topic of general discussion. 
He recounted his experiences to Archbishop Deza 
on his return to Seville, and begged him to arrange 
that both Conchillos and the Bishop of Burgos 
should be present at the audience the King had 
promised him, so that he might put the case fully, 
for he desired to charge them directly in the royal 
presence with responsibility for the massacres and 
cruelties to the Indians and for the damage done 
to the royal interests by their maladministration 
of the colonies. His project for this dramatic 
encounter was forestalled, and all the hopes born of 
the royal assurances given him at Plasencia were 
dashed by the news that reached Seville of the 

74 Bartholomew de Las Cases 

death of King Ferdinand, which occurred at Madri- 
galegos on January 23, 15 16. 

This sudden stoppage of his carefully planned 
campaign was discouraging enough to Las Casas, 
but he was not disheartened, and resolved to set out 
at once for Flanders where the young King Charles 
then was and to present his plans to the monarch 
before he arrived in Spain. 

King Ferdinand's last will designated Cardinal 
Ximenez de Cisneros as regent of the kingdom until 
his successor's arrival in Spain. 

In a century prolific in great men, Cardinal Xi- 
menez de Cisneros was among the greatest. De- 
scended from an honourable family, he entered 
the Church, where a career of great promise opened 
before him. At an early age, however, he quit 
the secular priesthood for the cloister and became 
a monk of the Franciscan Order, in which the 
austerity of his observance of that severe rule of 
life and the vigour of his intellect advanced him 
to the position of a Provincial. 

Much against his own inclination, he had accepted 
the post of confessor to Queen Isabella and from 
thence forward he became, in spite of himself, a 
dominant figure in the political and ecclesiastical 
affairs of the realm. The Queen raised him to the 
primatial see of Toledo, which carried with it his 
elevation to the Roman purple. The Cardinal- 
Archbishop of Toledo was the richest and most 
important person in Spain, after the sovereign; 
but promotion to this lofty dignity, with its obliga- 
tions to the pomp and magnificence imposed by the 

Cardinal Ximenez 75 

usage of the times, in no way modified the austerity 
of Cardinal Ximenez 's life. He still wore the rough 
habit of St. Francis under his purple and he patched 
its rents with his own hands. Amidst palatial 
surroundings he slept on the floor or on a wooden 
bench — never in a bed — and he held strictly to the 
diet of a simple monk. No man was less of the 
world than he, though none was more in it or knew 
it better. He became as renowned for his wisdom 
and ability in conducting affairs as he had long 
since been for his sanctity, and the confidence which 
the King and Queen reposed in him caused him 
to be admitted to their counsels on all the most 
important matters of government. 

When the death of King Ferdinand occurred, the 
Cardinal was nearly eighty years of age, yet he 
accepted and assumed the regency imposed upon 
him by the King's testament. Adrian of Utrecht, 
Dean of the University of Lou vain, who had resided 
for some months at the court of King Ferdinand in 
the quality of ambassador from Prince Charles, 
produced full powers from the young sovereign, 
which conferred upon him the regency after Fer- 
dinand's death. Cardinal Ximenez acknowledged 
him without delay, and a joint regency was insti- 
tuted in which Adrian's part was merely nominal, 
as the actual government was carried on exclu- 
sively by the Cardinal. 

It could hardly have been otherwise, for Adrian, 
as a foreigner, was unpopular in Spain, where he 
exercised no influence ; he did not even speak Spanish 
and being, moreover, of a scholarly disposition, 

76 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

little used to the intricacies of affairs of state, he 
was doubtless glad enough to shelter himself behind 
the powerful figure of his masterful colleague. The 
Cardinal was adored by the people; the sanctity 
of his life, the integrity of his character, the su- 
perlative order of his genius, and his princely 
munificence made him more powerful than any 
sovereign. Some of the great nobles who had 
imagined that the regency of an aged monk would 
favour the designs of their invasive ambitions were 
sharply checked by the energy of the new regent, 
who had organised an efficient body of troops in 
his own pay and speedily made it apparent that 
Spain had a ruler with whom it was perilous to 
trifle. One incident in the contest he sustained in 
defence of the crown's prerogatives against the 
encroachments of the feudal nobles, illustrates 
his character. The Duke of Infantado, the Grand 
Admiral of Castile, and the Count of Benevente came 
as representatives of the nobles, to inquire into 
the nature of the powers by which the regent exer- 
cised such absolute authority. After hearing them 
courteously, the Cardinal produced the late King's 
testament and its formal ratification by the absent 
King Charles. As they raised some objections 
to the extent of the powers these documents gave 
him, he led them to a window of his apartment 
commanding a view of a large encampment of 
soldiers and artillery, saying, " There are the powers 
I have received from his Catholic Majesty, by 
which I govern and shall continue to govern Castile, 
until the King, my master and yours, shall take 

Cardinal Ximenez 77 

possession of his kingdom." This answer both 
astonished and silenced them and they withdrew 
convinced of the futility of conspiracies against a 
man so well prepared and so determined. 

The supreme object of his regency was to consoli- 
date the union of the various kingdoms and princi- 
palities of the peninsula into one state — in other 
words to create a nation. This he did, and thus 
laid the foundations of Spain's greatest power and 
glory, for he delivered the kingdom to the young 
monarch in a more prosperous condition than it 
had ever before enjoyed, and with the royal au- 
thority more widely extended and more firmly 
grounded than any other Spanish sovereign had 
ever possessed it. 

The regency of Cardinal Ximenez did not last 
two years, yet such was the permanent character 
of his beneficent influence upon the national de- 
velopment, that the memory of his services is still 
undimmed in Spain. Amongst the statesmen of 
his times, he was facile princeps and he enjoys the 
unique distinction of being the only prime-minister 
in history who was regarded as a saint by his own 
contemporaries . x 

To this ascetic and autocratic but not unkindly 
statesman Las Casas decided to address himself, 
and he proceeded to Madrid to acquaint the two 
regents with the abuses prevailing in the Indies 
and to announce his intention of going to Flanders 

1 Flechier, Vie de Ximenez, vol. ii., p. 746; Baudier, Hist, de 
Ximenez, Gometius, lib. vii., p. 206; Marsollier, Viede Ximenez, 
p. 447; Robertson, Charles V '., vol. ii., p. 26. 

7& Bartholomew de Las Casas 

unless the necessary measures for the relief of the 
oppressed Indians could be devised in Spain before 
the King arrived. He drew up a statement of the 
case in Latin, which he submitted to the Ambassador 
Adrian, and another, identical, in Spanish, for Car- 
dinal Ximenez. The gentle-hearted Fleming was 
horrified by what he read of the atrocities per- 
petrated in the King's name in the colonies, and 
repairing to the apartment of Cardinal Ximenez, 
who lodged in the same palace, asked him if such 
enormities were possible. As the Cardinal already 
had plenty of information on the subject from his 
brother Franciscans, he replied that all that Las 
Casas stated was true and that there was even more 
besides. He signified to Las Casas that his pro- 
posed journey to Flanders was unnecessary as he 
would himself provide means in Madrid for correcting 
the abuses in the colonies. There began at once 
a series of conferences to which Cardinal Ximenez 
summoned his colleague in the regency, the licentiate 
Zapata, Dr. Carbajal, and the distinguished jurist 
Dr. Palacios Rubios; in the course of these debates 
Las Casas fully exposed the evils of the colonial 
administration and proposed the measures which, 
in his judgment, were necessary to remedy them. 
The Cardinal-regent always had by him as a con- 
suitor the Bishop of Avila, who was also of his Order, 
but he rigorously excluded the obnoxious Bishop 
of Burgos from all participation in Indian affairs, 
to the no small perturbation of that prelate. Las 
Casas relates a significant incident that happened 
during one of these conferences, illustrating the 

Cardinal Ximenez 79 

means employed by his opponents to confute his 
statements. Cardinal Ximenez ordered the Laws 
of Burgos, which, since 15 12, were supposed to be 
in full force in the Indies for the protection of the 
natives, to be read aloud ; upon reaching one of the 
articles, the reader falsified the text; Las Casas, who 
knew every line of those acts by heart, objected and 
the Cardinal ordered the reader to repeat; he did 
so in the same language, whereupon Las Casas once 
more objected, saying, "The law does not say that. " 
The Cardinal, rendered impatient by the repeated 
interruption, turned to Las Casas and remarked 
with severity, "Either be silent or look well to what 
you say." "Your Eminence may take my head 
off if what this clerk is reading be truly found in that 
law," replied Las Casas promptly. Taking the 
articles from the hands of the reader he showed 
his Eminence that the sense had not been correctly 
read. The confusion of the clerk, whom Las Casas 
refuses to dishonour by naming him in his history, 
was complete. The outcome of these discussions 
was that Las Casas, Dr. Palacios Rubios, and Fray 
Antonio de Montesinos (who had meanwhile arrived 
in Madrid) were deputed by the Cardinal-regent 
to draft a project of laws which would sufficiently 
protect the Indians and secure fair government 
in the colonies. By common consent of his col- 
laborators, the task of framing these laws was left 
exclusively to Las Casas. His propositions were: 
1. Unconditional liberty for the Indians; 2. Sup- 
pression of both repartimientos and encomiendas; 3. 
Some provisions for assisting the Spaniards to work 

8o Bartholomew de Las Casas 

their properties profitably without recurring to the 
oppressive and abusive systems they had hitherto em- 
ployed. Both Fray Antonio and Dr. Palacios Rubios 
approved these articles and the latter somewhat 
added to and improved them, recomposing them 
in the proper legal terminology of the time, after 
which they were again submitted, discussed, and, 
in some unimportant details, amended, in the above- 
mentioned council presided over by the Cardinal. 
The next important step was to place the execution 
of these new provisions in the hands of trusted 
delegates who would apply them rigorously and in 
the sense designed by the council, for there had 
been no lack of excellent decrees, having the same 
end in view, but which had, in the past, been ren- 
dered null and of no effect, through the connivance 
of the colonial authorities, to whom their execution 
had been entrusted. Las Casas, for the best of 
motives, declined having any part in designating 
such officers and in consideration of certain rivalries 
existing between the Franciscan and Dominican 
Orders, especially in Indian affairs, the Cardinal 
finally decided to confide the necessary powers to 
the monks of St. Jerome, an Order which had thus 
far taken no part in colonial affairs. Upon re- 
ceiving the Cardinal's notification of this intention, 
the General of that Order, who resided at San 
Bartolome de Lupiano, summoned a chapter of all 
the priors of Castile, in which twelve monks w T ere 
designated, amongst whom the regent might make 
his selection. Four priors came to Madrid to 
notify this result to his Eminence, and one after- 

Jeronymite Commissioners 81 

noon the two regents, accompanied by the entire 
court, rode out to the monastery of St. Jerome near 
the Buen Retiro Gardens, where they lodged, to 
receive the formal answer of the chapter. Las 
Casas was, of course, present, and the regents were 
received by the monks in the sacristy of the church, 
which had been appropriately prepared for the great 
occasion. Cardinal Ximenez addressed the assem- 
bly, highly commending the willingness of the 
Jeronymites to undertake such a meritorious task, 
and then ordered that Las Casas be summoned to 
hear the result. 

The boyish enthusiasm of Las Casas' s character 
appears on this occasion, for, consumed with im- 
patience, tortured by hopes and fears, he had waited 
outside in the upper cloister as long as he could stand 
it and had then finally descended a staircase which 
brought him unexpectedly to the sacristy door, 
just in time to hear that he was being searched for ; 
some one asked him if he knew Las Casas, to which 
he meekly replied, "I am he." As he could not 
get in at that door, he had to go round through the 
church, which obliged him to traverse the choir 
where all the great people of the court in attendance 
on the regents were waiting and who, so Las Casas 
observes, were all glad to see him, except perhaps 
the Bishop of Burgos. This hour of Las Casas's 
triumph was complete; on his knees before the 
Cardinal-regent, in the presence of the assembled 
priors of Castile and the entire court, he heard, with 
ill-repressed tears, the announcement that all he 
had most earnestly striven and prayed for was now 

82 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

to be realised and that he himself was designated 
to confer with the General of the Jeronymites con- 
cerning the choice of the men who were to execute 
the new laws in the Indies. The Cardinal, who 
unbent to few, treated Las Casas with genial fa- 
miliarity and when the latter declared that he did 
not need the money his Eminence had provided 
for his expenses, as he had enough of his own, he 
smilingly observed, "Go to, father, I am richer 
than you." 

Not a moment of time was wasted, and that very 
evening Las Casas received his instructions and 
twenty ducats for the expenses of his journey to 
Lupiano, whither he set out the following morning. 
One of the twelve monks amongst whom the se- 
lection was to be made was in that monastery, and 
the General had him called and presented him to 
Las Casas, who was as pleased with his robust 
appearance, which promised to support the physical 
hardships of colonial life, as he was with all that 
he heard of his virtues and learning, though his 
face was as ugly a one as ever a man had; this was 
Fray Bernardino de Mazanedo, the Prior of Mejorada, 
and he was selected as one of the commission ; 
Luis de Figueroa and the Prior of St. Jeromino 
in Seville were finally agreed upon between 
Las Casas and the General to complete the 

No sooner had the Jeronymite monks arrived 
in Madrid than the agents of the colonists, and 
all those who were interested in maintaining the 
encomiendas and repartimientos, whose suppression 

Jeronymite Commissioners 83 

meant the diminution of their incomes, laid instant 
siege to them. Las Casas was abused and even 
threatened in the public streets, and a well organ- 
ised campaign of calumny and misrepresentation 
was set actively in motion. The Indians were 
represented as lazy, filthy pagans, of bestial morals, 
no better than dogs, and fit only for slavery, in 
which state alone there might be some hope of 
instructing and converting them to Christianity. 
Las Casas was flouted as a fanatic, bent on destroy- 
ing the Spanish colonies, and as an enemy of his 
country's interests. So adroitly were these and 
other arguments presented, and so overwhelming 
was the mass of testimony favourable to the colo- 
nists that constantly reached the Jeronymites from 
all sides, that they began to be ill-affected towards 
Las Casas and to disregard his suggestions. Dr. 
Palacios Rubios was so disturbed by their new 
inclination, that after conversations with them, 
in which their changed views were plainly mani- 
fested, he declared it would be disastrous to 
send such men; he forthwith determined to stop 
their departure, if possible, before it was too 

Cardinal Ximenez fell seriously ill at this time 
and Palacios Rubios sought access to him in vain. 
As soon as his Eminence had sufficiently con- 
valesced to attend to business, he ordered the final 
instructions to be given to the Jeronymites and 
their departure to be hastened. One of the orders 
directed them, upon arriving in Hispaniola, to at 
once annul the encomiendas held by members of 

84 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the Royal Council for the Indies. This struck a 
hard blow at Conchillos and the Bishop of Burgos, 
amongst others, for the former lost eleven hundred 
Indians and the latter eight hundred, 1 nor from 
that time forth did any member of the Council 
openly hold property in slaves, though Las Casas 
was sceptical as to whether they did not continue 
to have private interests. Another similar order 
obliged all judges and royal officials in the colonies 
to surrender their slaves. The general sense of the 
instructions furnished to the Jeronymites for their 
guidance was in conformity with the ideas of Las 
Casas and the articles were indeed drawn up by 
him, although certain concessions which did not 
meet with his approval had been made to pub- 
lic opinion, and the important property-owners in 
the colonies were sufficiently powerful at court to 
obtain some modifications and to suppress some 
provisions in favour of the Indians, which seriously 
hampered the original proposals. In spite of the 
declaration formally set down in the will of Isabella 
the Catholic that the Indians were and must be 
considered free men, the contrary opinion had come 
to prevail, and in the beginning of his negotia- 
tions in Spain Las Casas himself had not ventured 
to insist too much or too openly on this point, 
until one day, when in conversation with Cardinal 
Ximenez, he queried by what principle of justice 
the Indians were held in subjection. His Eminence 
answered with some vivacity: "With no justice, 
for are they not free men? And who can doubt 

1 Quintana, Barth. de Las Casas, p. 263. 

Jeronymite Commissioners 85 

they are free?" From thenceforward Las Casas 
sustained this opinion unflinchingly. 1 

The licentiate Zuazo of Seville was appointed 
to accompany the Jeronymites and to open an 
inquiry (tomar la residencia) into the administration 
of the colonial officials. The powers of the friars 
were the fullest possible and enabled them to 
inquire into all matters touching the welfare of 
the Indians and to correct abuses, but they were 
not "governors" as has been supposed and stated 
by many writers, but rather overseers, charged to 
ensure the proper execution of the laws which had 
been enacted to protect the natives. 

As soon as the instructions were delivered to the 
Jeronymites, Las Casas received the following 
order from the Cardinal-regent: 

The Queen and the King. Bartholomew de Las Casas, 
priest, native of the city of Seville, and resident of the 
island of Cuba which is in the Indies. 

For as much as we are informed that you have been 
and are resident in those parts for a long time, from 
which you know and are experienced in their affairs, 
especially in what touches the well-being and usefulness 
of the Indians, and you know and are acquainted with 
their life and conversation from having dwelt with them, 
and because we know your good zeal in our Lord's ser- 
vice, from which we hope that you will execute with all 
diligence and care what we shall charge and command 
you and will see to what contributes to the welfare of the 
souls and bodies of the Spaniards and Indians who live 
there; by these presents we command you to repair to 

1 Instruction, Hist. Gen., torn, iv., p. 298. 

&6 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

those regions of the said Indies, such as the islands of 
Hispaniola, Cuba, San Juan, and Jamaica as well as to 
the mainland; and you shall advise, inform, and give 
your opinion to the pious Jeronymite fathers whom we 
despatch to effect the reformation of the Indies, and to 
other persons who may assist them in this, concerning 
everything which touches the liberty, good treatment, 
and welfare of the souls and bodies of the said Indians 
in the said islands and mainland; and that you shall 
write to us giving information concerning everything 
that may be done or should be done in the said islands ; 
and that you shall do everything required for our 
Lord's service; for all of which we give you full power, 
with all its casualties, dependencies, emergencies, 
annexes, and connexes; and we command our Admiral 
and appellate judges and all other justices whatsoever 
of the said Islands and Tierrafirma that they protect you 
and cause this power to be protected and that they shall 
not oppose or go contrary to its form and tenor nor 
consent that such be done at any time or in any way 
under pain of our displeasure and of 10,000 maravedis 
for each person who may act to the contrary. 

Done at Madrid the 1 7th day of September in the year 
1 5 16 F. Cardinalis, Adrianus Ambasiator — By command 
of the Queen and the King her son, our sovereigns, the 
governors in their name. George de Baracaldo. 

In addition to this full power, Las Casas was 
given the title of Protector-General (or Procurator- 
General) of all the Indians, to which office an annual 
salary of one hundred dollars was attached, an 
amount which, for the times, was a considerable one. 

Though everything now seemed ready for the 
departure of the Jeronymites and Las Casas, the 

Jeronymite Commissioners 87 

members of the Council still advanced objections 
to the instructions which Palacios Rubios had drawn 
up for the licentiate Zuazo, who had been deputed to 
take the residencia of the colonial judges; it was 
feared that some severe decisions might be given 
on acts which these latter had performed in the 
interests of the members of the India Council, 
whose tools they were. Las Casas employed 
his usual direct tactics to overcome these delays 
and brought the matter to the Cardinal's notice. 
His Eminence summoned the licentiate Zapata and 
Dr. Carbajal into his presence and ordered them 
to sign Zuazo' s papers; they obeyed, but contrived 
to affix a mark in cipher to their signatures which 
would enable them later to complain to the King 
that the regent had forced them to sign. 

In taking leave of the Cardinal, Las Casas frankly 
declared that he feared the Jeronymites had been 
so tampered with and influenced before starting on 
their mission, that more evil than good was to be 
apprehended from their action. The Cardinal, 
nonplussed for an instant by these forebodings, 
exclaimed, "Whom then can we trust?" quickly 
adding, "Go on and do you look out for everything.' ' 

This unpromising joint-commission sailed from 
San Lucar on November 11, 15 16, but in separate 
vessels, the Jeronymites keeping aloof from Las 
Casas, who they contrived should not embark 
on the same ship with themselves. Their vessel 
reached Hispaniola thirteen days earlier than the 
other, which had been obliged to stop at Puerto 
Rico to discharge freight. 

SS Bartholomew de Las Casas 

By detaching themselves from Las Casas at the 
very outset, the three Jeronymites doubtless in- 
tended to affirm the impartial and independent 
attitude essential to the judicial character of their 
mission. They were not carried to the Indies on 
any such wave of righteous zeal and indignation 
as bore the impetuous reformer on its crest. They 
were cloister-bred men, cautious and prudent in 
their decisions and deliberate in their acts, and they 
doubtless felt that for them to arrive in company 
with Las Casas would be to prejudice the impar- 
tiality of their proceedings in the eyes of all the 
colonists. They were sent to the colonies to carry 
out instructions of a most delicate and difficult 
nature and it was their obvious preference to fulfil 
their mission, as far as possible, without friction. 
In this exercise of caution, Las Casas beheld weak- 
ness and even treachery. His passionate nature 
chafed and raged at the deliberateness with which 
these impassive monks moved, and he was not slow 
to denounce them as having been won over by the 
blandishments of the colonial officials to betray 
the mission with which they were entrusted. His 
passion for justice, associated as it was with un- 
realisable ideals, refused to take account of the 
multifarious difficulties in the way of the reforms 
on which his heart was set, and he despised the 
obstacles to their consummation, through which he 
would have crashed, regardless of the consequences. 
Despite the sincerity of these one-sided views of 
the great Protector, it must be conceded that the 
problems confronting the Jeronymites were com- 

Jeronymite Commissioners 89 

plex and difficult of solution. The prompt and 
reckless execution of their instructions would have 
overturned the entire economic system of the colonies 
which, however unjust in its principles, was the estab- 
lished condition of things, and would have certainly 
brought financial ruin as the first consequence. 
The situation was one which called for all their 
circumspection if the Jeronymites were to make 
their authority effective and their decisions opera- 
tive. They were the first of all the men sent by 
the Spanish government to effect reforms in the 
colonies, whose intention to discharge their duty 
was conscientious, though Las Casas does not even 
admit this in their favour, for he declares that they 
had relatives in the islands whom they desired to 
benefit, and that in writing to the Governor of 
Cuba they even signed themselves as his " chaplains,' ' 
which seemed to him conclusive proof of their too 
subservient attitude towards the higher colonial 

The Jeronymites, however, had been furnished 
with two sets of instructions and it was within their 
discretion to guide their policy according to either, 
as their judgment formed on the spot might dictate. 
The first set of instructions was in conformity 
with the plan drawn up by Las Casas and Palacios 
Rubios; the second was provided in case the result 
of their investigations showed the full application 
of the first to be inexpedient, for Cardinal Ximenez, 
though sympathising with the ideas of Las Casas, 
was not led by him, but viewed the situation, as he 
did every other that concerned the welfare of the 

90 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Spanish realm, from the standpoint of a statesman, 
trustee for the absent sovereign. 

The first measures of the Jeronymites were in the 
right direction, but they were far too timid and 
temporising to satisfy the expectations of Las Casas ; 
the conditions he had foreseen were only too prompt 
in declaring themselves, for the Jeronymites showed 
themselves somewhat insensible to the crying abuses 
which he incessantly pressed upon their attention. 
They did not give full credit to all of his represen- 
tations and even ignored many of the proofs he 
adduced. They had failed to find the picture he 
had drawn in Spain of the Indians an entirely 
accurate one, and they resisted his reiterated 
demand that they should scrupulously obey the 
injunction to at once deprive all royal judges and 
officials of their encomiendas. The exasperation of 
Las Casas at this time pushed him to excesses which 
aroused such a storm of ill-feeling and hostility 
against him that his good friends the Dominicans 
feared for his life and insisted that he should come 
to live with them in their monastery, where he 
would be safer from any violence his enemies might 
attempt. Whether it was feasible to proceed in 
the drastic manner demanded by Las Casas is open 
to doubt. It is evident that the colonists would 
have offered an obstinate resistance, to combat 
which the three Jeronymites had nothing but the 
moral force of their commission. Even with our 
present facilities for rapid communication, it is not 
always easy for the central authority to control its 
agents and ensure the faithful execution of its 

Jeronymite Commissioners 91 

intentions. In the sixteenth century, time and 
distance influenced powerfully the action of the 
government representatives. Their instructions 
were made complex, voluminous, in the effort to 
cover every possible emergency, but no foresight 
sufficed for the purpose, while the legal system 
in use opened many loopholes for evading or post- 
poning the application of unpopular measures. 
An appeal from a royal commissioner's decision, to 
the India Council or to the King, entailed a delay 
of many long months or even years, during which 
each party contested every point. The outcome 
of such proceedings was problematical but the 
resisting party was always certain of the one positive 
advantage of delay. 



AS soon as Zuazo arrived, nearly three months 
after the Jeronymites, Las Casas immediately 
lodged against members of the audiencia, 
an accusation of having encouraged and shared in 
the man-hunts in the Lucayan islands and the en- 
slavement of the captured natives. The Jerony- 
mites, whose every act was now one of opposition 
to Las Casas, showed much annoyance at this im- 
peachment of the royal functionaries. They so- 
licited divers opinions, addressing themselves to 
the accused officials, who naturally exculpated 
themselves, to the Franciscan monks, who were 
not over-friendly to the Indians, and to the Domini- 
cans, who were their warm advocates. Much 
discussion ensued, and meanwhile the perplexed 
Jeronymites did nothing, so that matters continued 
as they had been before their arrival, except that 
the sufferings of the Indians were augmented by 
their owners, who feared that the encomienda system 
was nearing its end and hence worked their Indians 
to death, sparing neither women nor children, so as 
to get all the profit they could out of them before they 

lost them. Charges and counter-charges were sent 


Las Casas and Charles V. 93 

to Spain, the Jeronymites complaining of Las Casas 
and he in turn denouncing them to Cardinal Ximenez, 
though many of his letters were intercepted and 
never reached their destination. Things had come 
to such a pass that the only hope of remedy lay in 
Las Casas returning to Spain to file complaints 
against the very men he had himself caused to be 
sent to the Indies and in whose impartiality and 
humanity he had placed all his hopes. Both the 
Dominicans and Franciscans, for once in accord 
in this business, addressed letters to the King and 
the Cardinal in defence of Las Casas, armed with 
which he sailed in May, 151 7, for Spain and within 
fifty days arrived at Aranda de Duero, where he 
found his friend and protector, the Cardinal-regent, 
stricken with a serious illness. 

The arrival in Spain of the young King, Charles 
I. — better known in history under his imperial title 
of Charles V., — after repeated postponements was 
now confidently expected. During his regency, 
Cardinal Ximenez had been frequently embarrassed 
by the influences surrounding the King in his 
distant Flemish court. He had written with char- 
acteristic frankness advising the King not to bring 
a Flemish household with him into Spain, and as 
soon as the date for the royal journey was fixed, the 
Cardinal set out to meet his arriving sovereign, travel- 
ling as fast as his age and infirmities would allow. He 
had arrived at Aranda de Duero, where he was seized 
with an illness of such a mysterious character that 
his friends hinted that he had been poisoned. 

In the one interview which Las Casas obtained, 

94 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

he perceived that the machinations of his enemies 
had not been entirely in vain, for he found the 
Cardinal's mind somewhat influenced by the repre- 
sentations which had reached him from the Jer- 
onymites and the agents of the colonists. 

Charles V. landed at Villa viciosa in Asturias on 
September 13, 151 7. Among his first acts was the 
dispatch of a letter to the Cardinal, in which the 
latter was dismissed to his diocese with a few per- 
functory expressions of regard and recognition for 
his services. Cardinal Ximenez breathed his last 
a few hours after reading this heartless communi- 
cation and Las Casas was left to begin anew his 
life as a courtier and to cultivate the good-will 
of the all-powerful Flemish favourites. He was 
fortunate, at this time, in securing the friendship 
of a brother of Fray Antonio de Montesinos, named 
Reginaldo, who was also a Dominican and proved 
a staunch and resourceful ally. 

Influences and arguments which sound strange 
enough in twentieth-century ears were powerful, 
and likely to be employed with dangerous success 
in Spain at that time. One of the members of the 
Council having asserted to Fray Reginaldo that 
the Indians were incapable of conversion, the friar 
submitted this proposition to the Prior of San 
Esteban in Salamanca, one of the most learned and 
influential men in the Dominican order, asking him 
to invite a body of theologians to determine whether 
or no such an affirmation was in accordance with 
Catholic doctrine, and to send him a copy of the 
decision. Thirteen doctors of theology and other 

The Grand Chancellor 95 

ecclesiastical authorities replied with four or five 
signed conclusions, the last of which defined that 
all who held or propagated that error should be 
condemned to the ? stake as heretics. This was a 
weapon in Las Casas's hands which circumstances 
might make formidable; it was no trifling thing to 
be arraigned before the tribunal of the Inquisition 
on a charge of holding heretical doctrines, for 
neither rank nor calling availed to protect the 
offender, and it is somewhat astonishing that no 
reference to use of this "opinion" being made by- 
Las Casas in any given case is found in the records 
of his struggle for the liberty of the Indians. 

King Charles, even in his boyhood, was of a grave 
and thoughtful temperament, reserved and ob- 
servant in an unusual degree, but however richly 
endowed with gifts which promised him a glorious 
reign, he necessarily left the administration of his 
government very largely under the direction of his 
advisers, of whom the two most influential were 
William de Croy, commonly called Chievres, or by 
the Spaniards, Xevres, who had formerly been the 
King's governor, and Jean Salvage, a learned 
priest who was Dean of the University of Lou vain. 
The latter' s name was corrupted by the Spaniards 
into Juan Selvagio, and he held the office and title 
of Grand Chancellor, both hitherto unknown in 
Spain. These Flemings were odious to the Span- 
iards, who resented their high rank and influence 
and looked upon them as rapacious foreigners, 
who were controlling national affairs to the ex- 
clusion of those who had better claims, while they 

96 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

enriched themselves out of the Spanish treasury: 
none of them so much as spoke the national lan- 
guage and even the King's first task was to master 
Spanish in order to converse with his own subjects. 

As the Grand Chancellor had control of the 
department of justice, it was to him that Las Casas 
first got himself presented. He was well received 
and afforded opportunities to state his case, and, as 
he produced letters given him by some French 
Franciscans from Picardy, whom he had known in 
the Indies and who were friends of the Chancellor, 
he soon found himself upon terms of some friendli- 
ness with him. The Chancellor found great interest 
in listening to all that Las Casas had to tell him, and 
it is not to be doubted that the latter's habitual 
earnestness when on this subject was increased by 
the evident sympathy of his listener, upon whose 
support the fate of his projects depended. 

This friendship with the detested Flemings cost 
Las Casas dear with his own people, and made him 
more unpopular than ever. His opponents were 
obliged, however, to cease abusing him in their 
letters and official papers, for not only did the 
Chancellor openly befriend him, but he handed 
over to him most of the correspondence pertaining 
to Indian affairs. Las Casas translated the con- 
tents into Latin, adding his own observations or 
objections to the different reports or proposals, 
and then returned them to the Chancellor, who was 
delighted to have such expert assistance in dispatch- 
ing complicated affairs, in which he was himself un- 
practised. From the Chancellor's favour to that 

The Grand Chancellor 97 

of the King was but a step, and the charge of re- 
forming Indian legislation, which Las Casas had 
held from Cardinal Ximenez, was renewed to him. 
This welcome news was given him one day by the 
Chancellor remarking in Latin, which was their 
habitual tongue, "Rex dominus noster jubet quod 
vos et ego opponamus remedia Indiis; faciatis vestra 
memorabilia. ' ' Las Casas was quick to obey this con- 
genial behest. * 

It is indicative of the priority of importance 
which Las Casas habitually gave to spiritual over 
temporal aids, that he first had recourse to the 
priors of the religious orders, asking them to have 
their communities pray unceasingly and with 
special earnestness, that his mind might be illumined 
by divine grace to perceive what course he must 
follow. He next drew up his plan, but perhaps 
in no act of his long career is there less evidence 
of the action of divine guidance, for, in framing 

i The prodigious ignorance of the extent and value of the 
Crown's possessions in America was strikingly shown at this 
time by the indifference with which the King granted to the 
Flemish Admiral the entire province, or island as it was then 
called, of Yucatan, which had been recently discovered; little 
was yet known of its exact whereabouts and nothing at all of its 
size and value. The Flemings advised their Admiral to inquire 
of Las Casas concerning his new possession and both were in- 
vited to a dinner to discuss the subject. Las Casas enlarged on 
the beauty and wealth of the province and the Admiral began 
to form plans for planting a Flemish colony in his new possessions. 
By a timely hint from Las Casas to Don Diego Columbus, whose 
rights as Admiral of the Indies were violated by this concession, 
the latter was enabled to enter his protest and secure the annul- 
ment of this grant that only the amazing ignorance of the young 
King had made possible. 

98 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

his project, he committed an error which he himself 
sincerely and frankly deplored with touching hu- 
mility, and which has served all his detractors ever 
since as ground on which to bring a grave charge 
against him. 

In obedience to the King's command conveyed 
to Las Casas through the Chancellor, he drew up 
a plan in which he proposed that labourers should 
be induced to emigrate to the Indies, by granting 
that each person, whether man or child, should have 
his expenses paid as far as Seville, the place of 
embarkation, at the rate of half a real per day. 
While waiting in Seville to start, the India House 
(Casa de Contractacion) was to lodge and feed 
them, their passage to Hispaniola was to be given 
them and their food furnished for one year. Any of 
the emigrants who, at the expiration of the first 
year, found themselves incapacitated on account 
of the climate to support themselves, should be 
entitled to further assistance in the form of a royal 
loan. Lands were to be given them gratis and 
also the requisite farming implements for working 
them, in which their rights as owners should be 
permanent and hereditary. A more liberal scheme 
of assisted emigration could hardly be imagined. 
Other inducements were held out to attract emi- 
grants under the new regulations and Las Casas 
acceded to the request of certain of the colonists in 
Santo Domingo to ask the King's consent to the 
importation of negro slaves to replace the Indians 
who should be freed. 

This recommendation cost Las Casas dearly 

Negro Slavery 99 

enough and later exposed his reputation to un- 
justifiable attacks, some of which even represented 
him as having introduced negro slavery into America ; 
others as having been betrayed by blind zeal in 
favour of the Indians into promoting the slave- 
trade at the expense of the Africans. No one more 
sincerely deplored his course in this matter than 
he himself when he realised the significance of what 
he had done, and the sincerity and humility of his 
compunction should have sufficed to disarm his 
detractors. The most formal accusation made by 
a reputable historian against Las Casas is found 
in Robertson's History of America, vol. iii., Year 
1517, in which he charges the apostle of the Indians 
with having proposed to Cardinal Ximenez 

to purchase a sufficient number of negroes from the 
Portuguese settlements on the coast of Africa and to 
transport them to America in order that they might be 
employed as slaves in working in the mines and tilling 
the ground. Cardinal Ximenez however, when solicited 
to encourage the commerce, peremptorily rejected the 
proposition because he perceived the iniquity of reducing 
one race of men to slavery when he was consulting about 
the means of restoring liberty to another. But Las 
Casas, from the inconsistency natural to men who hurry 
with headlong impetuosity towards a favourite point, 
was incapable of making the distinction. While he 
contended earnestly for the liberty of the people born in 
one quarter of the globe, he laboured to enslave the 
inhabitants of another region and in the warmth of his 
zeal to save the Americans from the yoke, pronounced 
it to be lawful and expedient to impose one still heavier 
on the African. 

ioo Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Language could hardly more completely travesty 
the facts, for Las Casas neither " laboured to en- 
slave the inhabitants of another region" nor did 
he "pronounce it lawful" to increase slavery amongst 
the Africans. The moral aspect of the question 
of slavery was not under consideration and the 
recommendation of Las Casas is seen upon examina- 
tion to reduce itself to this : he advised that Spanish 
colonists in America should be allowed the privilege, 
common in Spain and Portugal, of employing negro 
slave labour on their properties. Since Spaniards 
might hold African slaves in Spain, it implied no 
approval of slavery as an institution, to permit them 
to do the same in the colonies. Las Casas was 
engaged in defending a hitherto free people from 
the curse of a peculiarly cruel form of slavery, but 
had he regarded the institution as justifiable in 
itself, he would have modified the ardour of his 
opposition to its extension. 

The truth plainly appears in the chronicles of 
the times and establishes beyond cavil exactly 
what Las Casas did, and under what circumstances 
and for what purposes he made the recommenda- 
tion which he never afterwards ceased to deplore. 
Retributive justice has followed these attempts 
of several lesser contemporaries of Robertson to 
asperse the character of one of the purest, noblest, 
and most humane of men, and while discredit has 
overtaken the inventors and publishers of these 
falsehoods, the investigations of impartial historians, 
provoked by their enormity, have resulted in ban- 
ishing such fables from historical controversy. 

Negro Slavery 101 

The original basis of the charge that Las Casas 
favoured the introduction of negro slavery into 
America is a passage in Herrera's Historia de las 
Indias Occidentales, written in 1598, thirty-two 
years after the death of Las Casas, and which 
reads as follows: 

As the licentiate Las Casas encountered much opposi- 
tion to the plan he had formed for helping the Indians 
and seeing that the opinions he had published had 
produced no result, in spite of the extraordinary credit 
he enjoyed with the Flemish chancellor, Juan Selvagio, 
he had recourse to other means to attain the same ends. 
He asked in 151 7 that the importation of Africans be 
permitted to the Spaniards settled in the Indies, in order 
to diminish the labour and sufferings of the Indians 
in the mines and on the plantations, and that a good 
number of labourers be enrolled in Spain who would 
emigrate to the Indies upon the conditions and with the 
advantages which he proposed. This new proposition 
was approved by the Cardinal of Tortosa, Adrian, by the 
Grand Chancellor, and the Flemish ministers. The 
Chamber of Commerce at Seville was consulted to learn 
what number of Africans, Cuba, Santo Domingo, San 
Juan [Puerto Rico], and Jamaica would require. It 
was replied that it would be sufficient to send four 
thousand. This answer being almost immediately 
made known by some intriguer to the Flemish governor 
of Bressa, this courtier obtained the monopoly of the 
trade from the sovereign and sold it to some Genoese for 
twenty-five thousand ducats on condition that during 
eight years no other license should be granted by the 
King. This arrangement was extremely harmful to the 
population of the islands, especially to the Indians for 

io2 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

whose benefit it had been granted; in fact had the trade 
been free, all the Spaniards might have engaged in it, 
but as the Genoese sold their right at a very high price, 
few Spaniards were able to pay, and the importation 
of blacks was almost nil. The King was counselled to 
pay back the twenty-five thousand ducats from his 
treasury to the governor and recover his rights, which 
would pay him well and be of great advantage to his 
subjects. Unfortunately the King had little money then 
and, as he was left in ignorance of much concerning the 
affairs of the Indies, nothing of what was most important 
was done. 

There is not a word in this passage which even 
refers to the introduction of negro slavery and 
Herrera in another passage (torn, i., dec. i., lib. iv., 
cap. xii.) states that a royal ordinance given on 
September 3, 1500, to Don Nicholas de Ovando, the 
Governor of Hispaniola, permitted the importation 
of negro slaves. This was two years before Las 
Casas made his first voyage as a young man of 
twenty-eight to America, and in 1503, the same 
Ovando asked that no more negro slaves be sent 
to Hispaniola because they escaped and lived 
amongst the natives whom they corrupted. 1 The 
number of negroes continued, nevertheless, to 
increase and repeated mention of their presence 
in the colonies is found in different passages through- 
out the history of Herrera and in other early writers. 

Since the first half of the fifteenth century (about 
1 440) 2 the Portuguese had been engaged in bringing 

1 Herrera, dec. i., lib. v., cap. xii. 

2 Saco states that the traffic began in 1442 and that a com- 

Negro Slavery 103 

negroes from the west coast of Africa and selling 
them in Lisbon and Seville, so that during half a 
century before Las Casas appeared on the scene 
where he was destined to play so distinguished a 
part, Andalusia and the southern provinces of 
Spain were well provided with slaves and a flour- 
ishing trade was carried on. The condition of 
such slaves was not a particularly hard one and 
the children born in Spain of slave parents were 
Christians. Since this system was recognised by 
the laws of the kingdom, and indeed by those of all 
Christendom at that time, no additional injury 
would be done to the negroes by permitting Span- 
iards who might own them in Spain, to take them 
also to the colonies. Las Casas was a man of such 
humane temperament that oppression and in- 
justice everywhere of whatever kind revolted him, 
but it can hardly be required, even of him, to 
be several centuries in advance of his times in 
denouncing a commonly accepted usage which pre- 
sented, as far as we know, few crying abuses. Tolera- 
tion of an established order, even though an 
essentially evil one, is a very different thing from 
the extension of its worst features in regions where 
it is unknown and amongst people ill-fitted to 
support its burdens. A small group of men, chiefly 
Dominican monks, with Las Casas at their head, 
courageously championed the cause of freedom 

pany was organised in 1444, the yearly import of slaves being 
between seven and eight hundred negroes. Pius II. condemned 
the trade by a Bull dated October 7, 147 1. — Historia de la 
Esclavitud, torn, iii., p. 277. 

io4 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

and humanity in a century and amongst a people 
hardened to oppression and cruelty; they braved 
popular fury, suffered calumny, detraction, and 
abuse; they faced kings, high ecclesiastics, and all 
the rich and great ones of their day, incessantly 
and courageously reprimanding their injustice and 
demanding reform. Since the memorable day when 
Fray Antonio de Montesinos proclaimed himself ' ' vox 
clamantis in deserto" before the astonished and 
incensed colonists of Hispaniola, the chorus of 
rebuke had swelled until it made itself heard, 
sparing none amongst the offenders against equity 
and humanity. The development of the collective 
moral sense of a people is only slowly progressive, 
and the betterment of racial conditions is more 
safely accomplished by evolution than revolution, 
hence if the moral vision of Las Casas did not detect 
the injustice practised on the negroes, simultane- 
ously with his keen perception of that which was 
being perpetrated on the Indians, his failure cannot 
be justly attributed either to indifference to the 
lot of one race of people or to wilful inconsistency 
in seeking to benefit another at its expense. That 
his action was not understood in any such sense 
at the time, is conclusively proven by the fact that 
inconsistency was never alleged against him, nor 
employed as a polemical weapon in the heated 
controversies in which he was engaged during all 
his life with the keenest and most determined 
opponents to his views. Far afield indeed did 
his enemies wander, seeking for weapons both of 
attack and defence, and nothing that could be 

Negro Slavery 105 

twisted into an offence against the public conscience 
or national interests escaped the keen eyes of the 
searchers. He was himself the first to perceive 
the error and contradiction into which he had 
inadvertently fallen, and forty years before Herrera's 
work was published, he had expressed his contrition 
for his failure to appreciate the conditions of African 
slavery, in the following passage, which occurs in the 
fourth volume (page 380) of his Historia General: 

The cleric Las Casas first gave this opinion that 
license should be granted to bring negro slaves to these 
countries [the Indies] without realising with what in- 
justice the Portuguese captured and enslaved them, 
and afterwards, not for everything in the world would 
he have offered it, for he always held that they were 
made slaves by injustice and tyranny, the same reason- 
ing applying to them as to the Indians. 

Fuller and more mature consideration of the 
entire question of slavery in all its aspects, of the 
right of one man or of nations to hold property in 
the flesh and blood of their fellow-men, conducted 
Las Casas directly to the necessary and generous 
conviction that the whole system must be every- 
where condemned ; for again in Chapter 1 2 8 he says 
of this advice which the cleric gave, 

that he very shortly after repented, judging himself 
guilty of inadvertence; and as he saw — which will be 
later perceived — that the captivity of the negroes was 
quite as unjust as that of the Indians, the remedy he 
had counselled, that negroes should be brought so that 
the Indians might be freed, was no better, even though 

io6 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

he believed they had been rightfully procured; although 
he was not positive that his ignorance in this matter 
and his good intention would exculpate him before the 
divine justice. 

As has been noted, the transfer of his monopoly 
by the Governor of Bressa to Genoese merchants, 
instead of increasing the exportation of negroes to 
America, resulted in almost stopping the nefarious 
trade, hence no considerable amount of mischief 
is traceable to the adoption of Las Casas's suggestion, 
which was only one of many enumerated in his 
scheme. Had the project as he framed it been 
accepted in its entirety and loyally carried out, 
no increased injustice would have been done to the 
negroes, for it was the frightful mortality amongst 
the cruelly driven Indians that rapidly reduced 
the numbers of labourers and made gaps which 
could only be filled by the importation of others 
from elsewhere. Under a more humane system, 
the Indians might still have laboured, but not in 
excess of their powers; their lives would not have 
been sacrificed, or rendered unendurable, while the 
colonists would have become rich less rapidly; 
there would have been no shortage of workmen 
and little need for the importation of Africans 
at a high price, even though one negro did the 
work of four Indians, according to the popular 
estimate. While many admirable suggestions of 
Las Casas were rejected, this blamable one con- 
cerning the permission to import negroes was 
accepted, and thus by a singular irony of fate, this 
good man, whose whole life was a self-sacrificing 

Negro Slavery 107 

apostolate in favour of freedom, actually came to 
be aspersed as a promoter of slavery. 

The controversy on this passage in the life of 
Las Casas has been touched upon here because it 
furnished at one time material for much discussion, 1 
but the light of historical research has long since 
dispersed the artificial clouds which misrepresen- 
tation caused to gather about the fame of the Pro- 
tector of the Indians, and there now neither is, 
nor can be, any doubt concerning the sentiments 
and intentions of one whose noble figure is too 
clearly denned on the horizon of history ever again 
to be blurred or obscured. 

Another part of the plan for colonisation on the 
moral basis of benefiting the Indians as well as 
the Spaniards, was the foundation of fortified places 
at intervals along the coast of the territory to be 
granted. In each of these settlements, some thirty 
men should be stationed with a provision of various 
articles, such as the Indians prized, for trading 
purposes; also several missionary priests, whose 
occupation would be teaching and converting the 
Indians. It was maintained that by kind treat- 
ment the Indians could be attracted to the Spaniards 
and thus, little by little, become civilised, profitable, 
and voluntary subjects of the King. 

Unfortunately for the prosperous development of 
these benevolent projects, the mischievous Bishop of 

1 Quintana, Espanoles Celebres, torn. iii. ; Fabie\ Vida y 
Escritos de Las Casas, torn, i., cap. iv. ; Llorente, CEuvres de Las 
Casas, torn, ii., pp. 336-503; Las Casas, Hist. Gen., torn, iv., 
cap. cxxviii. 

io8 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Burgos and his brother, who, since the latter part 
of Cardinal Ximenez's regency, had been excluded 
from active participation in Indian affairs, began 
once more to exercise an influence, partly, perhaps, 
because long experience had equipped them with a 
practical knowledge of details which the Grand 
Chancellor found useful, and partly, so Las Casas 
hints, because they had succeeded, by spending 
important sums of money, in recovering their former 
offices. At first the Bishop's opposition was mild 
enough, and he contented himself with pointing 
out that he had never been able to induce emigrants 
to go to the Indies and that Las Casas' s scheme was 
unworkable. Las Casas, however, affirmed that 
he could easily find three thousand workmen as 
soon as he was authorised to assure them of the 
King's conditions, and that the Bishop had not 
succeeded in finding men because he had treated 
the islands as a penal colony, whereas now, on the 
contrary, the severest punishment, after the death 
penalty, with which a colonist in the Indies could 
be threatened, was that of being shipped back to 

The King had left Valladolid * on his way to take 
formal possession of the kingdom of Aragon and 
these negotiations were being carried on at Aranda 
de Duero, where a halt had been made. Las Casas 
fell ill and the court moved on without him, but it 

i Las .Casas relates that while at Valladolid, he encountered 
Magellan, who had arrived from Portugal to solicit Spanish 
patronage for his voyage in search of the straits he was destined 
to discover and which bear his name. 

Events at Court 109 

is indicative of the favour he had already acquired 
with the King that frequently the monarch ex- 
claimed: "Oh, I wonder how Micer Bartolome is 
getting on!" Micer was the title the Flemings 
gave to ecclesiastics, and Charles V., who was the 
reverse of demonstrative, commonly used this 
familiar appellation in speaking of Las Casas. 
Before the court reached Zaragoza, the invalid 
was on his legs again and had rejoined the others, 
being received with great joy by the Grand Chan- 
cellor, 1 who was almost as enthusiastic as Las Casas 
himself in pushing forward the Indian reforms. 
Delay, however, was again caused at Zaragoza, where 
the King and court were established, by the illness 
of the ever-contrary Bishop of Burgos ; while waiting 
there to resume business, a letter was sent to Las 
Casas from Seville by his friend Fray Reginaldo, 
containing a full account of the ruthless cruelties 
of one of the captains of Pedro Arias, named Es- 
pinosa, which cost the lives of forty thousand 
Indians. This ghastly chronicle, which was supplied 
by a Franciscan, Fray Francisco Roman, who wrote 
as an eye-witness of the atrocities, was immediately 
laid before the Chancellor by Las Casas; the former 
was much impressed by the report and directed 
Las Casas to go to the Bishop on his behalf and 
read him the letter. 

The Bishop took the news coolly enough and 

1 As Las Casas was mounting the stairs leading to the Chan- 
cellor's lodgings, he met Don Garcia de Padilla who exclaimed, 
"Hurry up, Padre, and comfort the Grand Chancellor who has 
been lamenting over your death ! " 

no Bartholomew de Las Casas 

merely observed that he had long since advised 
the recall of Pedro Arias. 1 

With the recovery of the Bishop, everything 
seemed ready for the resumption of business, when 
fate dealt Las Casas one of the hardest blows he 
had had to sustain. The Grand Chancellor, who 
owned to feeling indisposed on a Friday, became 
worse on Saturday, so that he had to keep his room ; 
his illness persisted on Sunday with signs of fever, 
and, as Las Casas tersely puts it, "they buried him 
on Wednesday." 

With the death of the Fleming died all hope of 
any immediate action in behalf of the Indians; 
in the absence of any other as familiar with the 
business of the Indian department as himself, 
the Bishop of Burgos found himself once more 
omnipotent, or as Las Casas puts it, "he seemed 
to rise to the heavens while the cleric [himself] sank 
to the depths." The Chancellor's successor, named 
by the King pro tempore, was the Dean of Bisancio, 
a heavy, phlegmatic man who slept peacefully all 
through the sessions of the Council and only had 
sufficient perception to commend Las Casas for 
the zeal with which he pestered him day and night, 
remarking on one occasion with a dull smile : ' ' Com- 
mendamus in Domino, domine Bartholomeo, vestram 

1 While in Zaragoza, Las Casas met the wife of Conchillos, 
who had come to court to look after her husband's interests; 
on seeing Fray Bartholomew, the lady exclaimed with bitterness: 
"May God forgive you, Padre, for sending my children to the 
almshouse ! " Las Casas, who in no way regretted having 
suppressed the repartimientos from which Conchillos derived his 
income, replied, " On me and on mine be their blood. " 

Events at Court in 

diligentiam." . Two such ill-assorted characters as 
this bovine dean and the fiery Las Casas only suc- 
ceeded in tormenting one another to no purpose, 
though, as the latter observes, in this case "it did 
not kill the Dean for all that." 

The India Council, over which the Bishop of 
Burgos presided, was composed at that time of 
Hernando de la Vega, Grand Commander of Castile, 
Don Garcia de Padilla, the licentiate Zapata, Pedro 
Martyr de Angleria, and Francisco de los Cobos who 
was then just rising into prominence. Las Casas 
was excluded, and though he was as busy as ever 
in laying petitions and memorials before the Council, 
he had no friends or protectors inside and con- 
sequently obtained nothing, save what they were 
obliged for very shame's sake to concede him. 
Discouragement was too alien to his sanguine 
temperament, else he might, with some show of 
reason, have abandoned all hope of struggling 
successfully against such odds. The first decisive 
measure of the Bishop was to recall the Jeronymite 
fathers from their mission in the Indies, of which 
he had from the outset been the determined oppo- 
nent. It has often been justly observed that the 
vicissitudes of politics make strange bed-fellow^s, 
and it was certainly a singular regrouping of the 
persons in this historical situation, to find the 
Jeronymites now reduced to seeking out Las Casas 
to whom to pour out their woes against the mutual 
enemy, the Bishop of Burgos. 



WHILE matters were at the low ebb described 
in the preceding chapter, the appearance 
of a new and unexpected character on the 
scene brought Las Casas some welcome assistance. 
Although his chief support had been his good friend, 
the deceased Chancellor, the other Flemings in the 
royal household were, on that account first of all, 
interested in him and the cause he so ardently 
pleaded. Amongst these unpopular foreigners was 
Monsieur de la Mure, who, being attracted to Las 
Casas by what he heard of him, expressed a desire 
to several of his friends to make the clerigo's ac- 
quaintance. This wish was soon gratified, and the 
young courtier's interest in all that concerned the 
Indians and the proposed measures for the reform 
of the colonies was quickly satisfied by Las Casas, 
who furnished him with a full history of the business 
he had in hand. The least impressionable of men 
could not listen to such an advocate unmoved, and 
M. de la Mure, profoundly affected by what he 
heard, offered to help his new friend by every 
means he could command. He was an ally worth 
having, for, being a nephew of Monsieur de Laxao, 


Monsieur de Laxao 113 

sommeiller du corps to the King, he was able to 
introduce Las Casas to his powerful uncle, who 
stood in closer relation to the monarch than any 
other officer of the court, for he slept in the royal 

Monsieur de Laxao was as quickly won over to 
the good cause as his nephew had been, so Las 
Casas, finding himself once more with powerful 
supporters, renewed his efforts to press his business 
to a conclusion. Some wholesome activity was 
displayed in dispatching various officials to take 
the residencia of the several governors of the islands, 
Rodrigo de Figueroa being sent to Hispaniola, 
Doctor de la Gama to Puerto Rico and Cuba, and 
Lope de Sosa to Darien, where he was also to suc- 
ceed the actual Governor, Pedro Arias de Avila. 
The Council, acting upon reports which described 
the natives of Trinidad as cannibals, ordered that 
war should be made upon them, but Las Casas 
denied this charge, and contrived that Figueroa 
should be authorised to first investigate and re- 
port on this matter before hostilities began; Figu- 
eroa' s report was entirely favourable to the natives, 
amongst whom he found no cannibalism. 

As the Dominicans in Hispaniola were ignorant 
of the progress of events at court and the loss sus- 
tained by Las Casas through the death of the Chan- 
cellor, they still conceived him to enjoy great 
influence. The Prior, Pedro de Cordoba, wrote 
him a detailed description of some recent atrocities 
perpetrated by the Spaniards in Trinidad where 
they had gone to fish for pearls; manifesting also 

H4 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

dissatisfaction with the conduct of the Jeronymites. 
He therefore begged Las Casas to obtain from the 
King a grant for the Franciscan and Dominican 
monks of one hundred leagues of coast on the main- 
land about Cumana, from which laymen should 
be excluded ; should one hundred leagues be thought 
excessive, then he begged for ten, and failing this, 
he would accept the small islands known as the 
Alonso group, which lay some fifteen leagues from 
the coast. His intention was to establish a place 
of refuge, or sanctuary, to which the persecuted 
Indians might repair, sure of finding kind treatment, 
and, through instruction, be converted to Christ- 
ianity. The Prior declared that unless some one 
of these concessions was made, he would have to 
recall all the monks of his Order from those coun- 
tries, where it was idle for them to attempt to teach 
Christian doctrines, as long as the Indians saw 
those who called themselves Christians acting in 
open violation of them. The contents of this 
letter vexed and alarmed Las Casas not a little, for 
he feared that if the Prior were driven to make good 
his threat of recalling his monks, the Indians would 
be abandoned, without defence, to the cruelties of 
the Spaniards and would soon be exterminated. 
His one hope of support in his own plans lay in the 
Dominicans, without whose aid his efforts were 
foredoomed to failure. He spoke to the Bishop 
and the members of the Council, reading them the 
letter and addressing earnest appeals to them to 
stop the iniquities which were devastating the 
entire coast. He urged, with all the arguments of 

I I^3.S (_x3.S3.S 

the Jeronymites. 

tain from the 

King ad Dominican 

on the main- 

about laymen should 

■clud: es be thought 

: ng i, 
he would a as the 

Alonso group, from 

His intention 

actuary, to wl 

of finding kind treatment, 
Charles V. 
From an engraving by Ferdinand Selma, made in 
1778 after the portrait by Titian. s fre wou ld have to 

om those coun- 

ig in 

its of this 

s not a little, for 




His one ho ly in the 

Dominican i forts were 

for i the Bishop 

an membt •; ading them the 

letter and addr appeals to them to 

stop the iniquiti were devastating t 

le \ al] the arsur 

Colonisation Proposals 115 

which he was master, that the one hundred leagues 
asked for should be conceded. The Bishop of 
Burgos was unmoved, both by the Prior's harrow- 
ing description of the outrages committed on the 
Indians and by the appeal of Las Casas, and he coolly 
answered that the King would be badly advised 
to grant a hundred leagues of land to the friars, 
without some return therefor; a reply which Las 
Casas observes was unworthy of a successor of 
the Apostles. Poor as the Bishop was in episco- 
pal qualities, he was even less gifted with those 
which make a good minister of colonial affairs, and 
the results of his thirty-five years of control of 
Indian affairs were as unprofitable to the Spanish 
Crown as they were disastrous to the Indians. 

Las Casas did not hesitate to express his opinion 
to the Bishop with his customary uncompromising 
frankness, but with no result, save probably that 
of confirming his stubborn and hostile attitude. 

Perceiving that no argument which did not 
promise lucrative returns would avail to secure 
a grant of territory, the clerigo evolved a plan that 
promised to secure the ends for which he and the 
Dominicans were striving and, at the same time, 
would assure a profitable investment for the Crown. 

In spite of the Bishop's continued opposition, Las 
Casas pushed forward his plan for colonising, and 
though the Chancellor's death was a great loss to 
him, he nevertheless found in Cardinal Adrian of 
Utrecht and other Flemings, every possible assistance. 
He was named royal chaplain in order to give him 
additional prestige before the public, and letters 

n6 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

were sent throughout the kingdom to the principal 
civil and ecclesiastical authorities, ordering some 
and inviting others to aid him by every means in 
their power to collect the desired emigrants. The 
officials of India House in Seville were instructed 
to receive and attend to those intending to emigrate 
under Las Casas, when they arrived in Seville; 
they were likewise directed to prepare the necessary 
ships to transport them to America. It was neces- 
sary that Las Casas should be accompanied on his 
recruiting tour through the country by some trust- 
worthy man to help him in enrolling his emigrants, 
and, as fate would have it, his choice fell most 
unfortunately upon one Berrio, an Italian, a cir- 
cumstance which Las Casas afterwards observed 
was, in itself, sufficient to explain his treachery. 
Berrio was to act as herald, publishing in the differ- 
ent cities, with sound of trumpet, the object of Las 
Casas's visit, the high powers he held from the King, 
and the favourable conditions he offered. To give 
his assistant more dignity in the eyes of the people 
Las Casas procured for him the designation of 
Captain in the royal service, with a salary of four 
hundred and five maravedis per day. 

Berrio sold himself to the Bishop of Burgos before 
the recruiting expedition even began, and his signed 
instructions, which he had engaged to obey, were 
fraudulently altered by the latter so as to free him 
from all control. Thus provided, he soon detached 
himself from his rightful superior and went to 
Andalusia, where he assembled on his own account 
two hundred men, vagabonds, lcafers, and tapsters, 

Recruiting Emigrants 117 

of whom few were labourers and none fit for colo- 
nists. These unpromising recruits were gathered in 
Seville, where the officials of India House were at a 
loss to know what to do with them; they finally 
sailed, but, as the colonial authorities had received 
no notice concerning them, they landed, destitute 
and worthless, in Hispaniola, where their arrival 
was unwelcome. Many of them died and the others 
scattered in various parts. It fell to Las Casas 
to interest himself in their behalf and to relieve 
their miseries, but the meal and wine he obtained 
for them arrived in Hispaniola too late, as the in- 
tended beneficiaries were either dead or widely 

It appears, according to Las Casas 's own account, 
that emigrants were attracted to his scheme, not 
so much by the liberal conditions, or because their 
circumstances were not prosperous, but by their 
desire to escape onerous feudal conditions still 
prevailing in Spain. It was chiefly, therefore, from 
amongst the dwellers on great estates that his 
emigrants were recruited, for many such said they 
desired to leave their children free in a free country 
under the King's protection. The great nobles 
were ill-pleased at this desertion of their feudatories, 
and Las Casas soon found himself at loggerheads 
with the Constable of Castile, whose villagers at 
Berlanga were inscribing themselves in great num- 
bers; the Constable ordered him to quit his estates. 
On an estate called Rello, belonging to the Count of 
Corufia, out of thirty householders twenty -nine put 
down their names as emigrants. As may be supposed 

n8 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the number of the clerigo's enemies in high quarters 
was increased by this state of things, though his 
success in recruiting emigrants enabled him to 
triumph over the Bishop, who had foretold that 
he would never get together the necessary people. 
He was able to say on his return to Zaragoza that 
not only three thousand but ten thousand people 
would willingly go if the Bishop would provide the 

Cardinal Adrian listened sympathetically to the 
report of what had been done and addressed to Las 
Casas the observation in Latin, " Vere vos tribuitis 
aliud regnum regi." 

The King and his Court left the kingdom of 
Aragon at this time to visit the principality of 
Cataluna, making his formal entry into Barcelona 
on the fifteenth of February, 15 19. The Jerony- 
mite fathers had arranged for the sale of the royal 
haciendas in Hispaniola, and Las Casas, ever on the 
alert to secure advantages for his colonists, presented 
a petition asking that they should be maintained 
for one year at the royal expense. The vexation 
of the Bishop of Burgos augmented visibly at this 
fresh claim for assistance, and he roundly declared 
such a concession would cost the Crown more than 
an armada of twenty thousand men, which pro- 
voked the pertinent retort from Las Casas : ' ' Does 
it appear to your lordship that after you have 
killed off the Indians, I should now lead Christians 
to death? Well, I shall not." As the Bishop, 
according to Las Casas, was no fool, he hoped that 
he understood this plain answer. 

Recruiting Emigrants 119 

Without the assistance which he was convinced 
was indispensable to the success of his undertaking, 
Las Casas refused to move, though every effort 
was made to start him off; an attempt was even 
made to secure another leader for the undertaking, 
but the news of this design was not slow in reaching 
him, and he promptly published far and wide, in the 
district where his recruits were waiting his orders 
to start, that they should on no account accept the 
leadership of another, who would only conduct them 
to failure and starvation in the colonies. 

Events of great importance were occurring at this 
time which absorbed the attention of the King and 
his counsellors to the exclusion of American affairs. 
By the death of his grandfather, the Emperor 
Maximilian, the succession was open, though both 
Francis I. of France and Henry VIII. of England 
aspired to the imperial dignity. The royal interest 
therefore centred in Germany and the coming 
election, and Las Casas and his Indian schemes 
were put to one side. 




AS has been heretofore explained, Las Casas 
perceived that his efforts to obtain support 
for his project would come to naught, unless 
it could be made plain to the Council that some 
material benefit would accrue to the royal revenues; 
he therefore turned his attention to forming a plan 
which should comprehend the conversion of the 
Indians by gentle and peaceful means and likewise 
yield a profit to the Crown. He conceived the idea 
of forming a species of order of knighthood, whose 
members were to be known as Knights of the Golden 
Spur. They were to number fifty selected men, each 
of whom should furnish two hundred ducats, which 
he deemed would amount to a sufficient sum for the 
expenses of founding the colony. The knights 
were to wear a dress of white cloth, marked on the 
breast with a red cross, similar to the cross of 
Calatrava, but with some additional ornamentation. 
The purpose of this costume was to distinguish 
them in the eyes of the Indians from all other 

A grant of one thousand leagues of coast, be- 
ginning one hundred leagues above Paria, and with 

1 20 

Knights of the Golden Spur 121 

no limits in the hinterland, was asked for the colony, 
in return for which concession a payment of fifteen 
thousand ducats was promised to the Crown during 
the first three years, which sum should afterwards 
become an annual income until the seventh year; 
from the seventh to the tenth year, the income 
would be thirty thousand ducats, and beginning 
with the eleventh year, it would reach the sum of 
sixty thousand. The foundation of three fortified 
towns, with at least fifty Spaniards in each, was 
promised within the first five years. The religious 
propaganda was to be carried on by twelve Fran- 
ciscan and Dominican friars, whom Las Casas was 
to be allowed to choose: for this purpose the King 
was asked to solicit the necessary faculties from the 
Holy See. Such, in brief, was the plan which Las 
Casas conceived for spreading civilisation on the 
American coast and winning the Indians to Chris- 
tianity. His own jurisdiction within the conceded 
territory was to be absolute, and all Spaniards 
whatsoever were to be forbidden by royal com- 
mand, and under pain of severe penalties, to 
cross its borders. The only discoverable road to 
liberty lay through absolutism, under a benevo- 
lent despot. 

The most obvious flaw in this scheme was the 
difficulty — amounting indeed to impossibility — of 
finding the fifty knights. Las Casas, like many 
enthusiasts and reformers, failed to reckon with the 
realities of human nature. His colony was to be a 
Utopia, peopled by lofty-minded Spaniards, who 
were free from the prevalent thirst for gold, and 

i22 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

only preoccupied in cultivating sentiments of the 
purest altruism: mixed with them were to be 
gentle-mannered Indians, in whom shone all the 
qualities of primitive man, unspoiled by contact 
with the evils of civilisation, and who were thirsting 
to know the truth and to embrace it. These idyllic 
barbarians were to furnish the human material on 
which the knights were to exercise their virtues, 
and all were to be thus united in bonds of loving 
fraternity and disinterested industry, under the 
benign government of a dozen monks, who had 
long since renounced this world and who would give 
their exclusive attention to leading their flock from 
a terrestrial into the celestial paradise. A Fra 
Angelico might have grouped these interesting 
types into a picture of soul-stirring beauty. Even 
had the fifty been found, all with the proper dis- 
positions and in harmonious unanimity of purpose, 
there was little chance that they would remain 
unaffected by the unbalancing and corrupting 
influences of a new country, where they would be 
absolute masters over an inferior race of people. 
Many excellent men of the highest principles and 
best intentions went from Spain to America in 
those times, but few resisted the temptations which 
beset them. 

Las Casas kept his plan a profound secret until he 
had secured the approbation of the new Chancellor, 
Gattinara, and that of several of the influential 
Flemings. It was then laid before the India 
Council, where it was met with a storm of objection 
and ridicule. It was promptly shelved, and not 

Knights of the Golden Spur 123 

all the urging of Las Casas, the discontent of the 
Flemings, nor even the efforts of the Chancellor 
himself to induce the Bishop of Burgos to study 
the matter, sufficed to have it taken into serious 
consideration. The different features, as they be- 
came known, provoked mirth, and much fun was 
made of the white robes, red crosses, and golden 
spurs of the knights. 

Baffled by the inertia of the Council and the fail- 
ure of his powerful friends to obtain serious at- 
tention for his project, Las Casas had recourse 
to other influences. The oppression of the Indians 
and the violation of their rights as free men not 
only revolted the humanitarian instincts of their 
Protector, they offended justice and constituted a 
grave crime against morality, by which the King 
was inculpated and for which he would have to 
answer at the bar of divine justice. No utilitarian 
ends could justify criminal means, and that In- 
dian slavery was profitable to the Crown was in 
no sense a palliation of its essential wickedness. 

The King's confessor, as keeper of the royal 
conscience, had already in Ferdinand's time been 
prevailed upon to explain to his Majesty the grave 
responsibility he incurred in tolerating a state of 
things so contrary to divine and natural laws. Now 
Las Casas, in his extremity, turned to the court 
preachers, who were eight in number, laying before 
them the entire case as a problem in morals, upon 
which it was within their duty as the spiritual 
instructors of the sovereign to pronounce. The 
part which these ecclesiastics took in the matter 

i24 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

was brief but not unimportant nor without results. 
Two of them were secular priests, the brothers 
Luis and Antonio Corodele, both religious and 
learned men, doctors of the University of Paris; 
another was Fray Miguel de Salamanca, also a 
doctor of Paris; there was Father Lafuente of the 
University of Alcala, a Franciscan, Fray Alonso de 
Leon, an Augustinian, Fray Dionisio, and two others, 
whose names Las Casas was not able to recall when 
writing his history some forty years after these 
events occurred. This body of learned men repre- 
sented everything that was most authoritative in 
theological and canonical opinion of the times and 
constituted a most formidable ally against the 
Bishop and Council. Meetings of the eight preachers 
and Las Casas were held in the convent of Santa 
Catalina, at which several other men of importance 
assisted, one of whom was Fray Alonso de Medina, 
of the Dominicans; while another, a Franciscan 
friar who had spent much time in the Indies, is 
described as a brother of the Queen of Scotland. 
These meetings, which were secret, were held at 
the same hour of the day as the sittings of the India 

Religious dogma was held in that age to be axio- 
matic and incontrovertible ; all science was interpreted 
through the medium of the one universal science of 
theology, and the civil law of the times drew its sanc- 
tion from the principles of canon law, from which 
indeed it was scarcely separable. Just as it was 
sought to sustain Galileo's proposition concerning the 
revolution of the earth by an appeal to theology, 

The Court Preachers 125 

and just as theologians were considered competent 
to pronounce on the soundness of the theories of 
Columbus, so was it admitted, with far greater 
reason, to be within their competence to pronounce 
upon the question of the extension of slavery in 
the Indies, although that matter was treated as 
one of secular policy, belonging to the India 
Council. Kings and governments contended, when 
they could, for the exercise of their royal powers in 
temporal matters, independently of the spiritual 
control, but the line of distinction was a fine one, 
not easily drawn, and the basis of Spain's claim 
to the Indies and to the exercise of jurisdiction in 
America was the Bull of Alexander VI. issued in 
May, 1493. The express condition on which the 
Pope granted the Bull was, that the conversion 
of the Indians should be the primary care of the 
Spanish government, and this condition was so 
clear and binding that it amounted to a reservation 
to the Pope of an oversight of the means to be 
adopted for that end. As it was within the recog- 
nised power of the Pope to grant such rights and 
jurisdiction, and to attach conditions thereto, it 
was equally within his power to annul or withdraw 
them if the Spanish sovereigns failed to fulfil those 
conditions. Hence the government of the Indies, 
in all that pertained to the moral well-being and 
religious instruction of the natives, was, beyond 
question, within the legitimate exercise of eccle- 
siastical control. The exposition of the case by 
Las Casas, supported by the mass of evidence he was 
able to furnish and the testimony of the Scotch 

i26 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Franciscan and others, convinced the theologians 
that their duty, both to religion and to the King, 
bound them to intervene and to correct abuses in 
open violation of the declared intentions of the 
sovereigns from the time of Isabella that the Indians 
should be free men, whose conversion to Christian- 
ity was their first duty. The theologians bound 
themselves by a common oath, that no opposition 
should discourage them, and that each and all of 
them would not desist from their single and united 
efforts, until success had crowned them. It was de- 
cided that the first step should be to exhort the mem- 
bers of the Council: this failing of result, they 
would address their remonstrances to the Chancellor, 
after him to M. de Chievres, who was nearest the 
person of the King, and in the last resort the mon- 
arch himself should be made to understand his 
responsibility. Should nothing come of their ex- 
hortations, they bound themselves to preach openly 
against the government, instructing the public 
conscience on the subject and assigning to the King 
his just share of the wrong-doing. 

Action followed swiftly upon the adoption of 
this resolution, and the India Council, under the 
presidency of the redoubtable Bishop of Burgos, 
was stupefied by the apparition of the theologians 
at one of its sittings. Fray Miguel de Salamanca, 
after asking for permission of the President, made 
the following brief but energetic discourse: "Most 
illustrious gentlemen and most reverend sir : It has 
been certified to us, the preachers of the King our 
lord, by persons whom we are forced to believe, 

The Court Preachers 127 

and it also appears to be notorious, that men of our 
Spanish nation in the Indies commit great and 
unheard-of evils against the natives of those parts; 
such as robberies and murders, thereby giving the 
greatest offence to God and bringing infamy on our 
holy faith, and by which such an infinite number of 
people have perished that large islands and a great 
part of the mainland are now depopulated, to the 
great ignominy even of the Royal Crown of Spain; 
for the Holy Scripture testifies that in the multitude 
of the people consists the dignity and honour of the 
King, and in their diminution is his ignominy and 
dishonour. We have marvelled at this, knowing 
the prudence and merits of the illustrious persons 
who compose the Council for the government of 
those countries, to whom God appears to have 
confided such a great world as they are said to 
constitute, and for which they will have to render 
a strict account; on the other hand, learning that 
there can have been no reason why those nations, 
which lived peaceably in their countries, owing 
us nothing, should have been destroyed by us, we 
know not what to say, nor do we find any one to 
whom to impute such irreparable evils, other than 
to those who until now have governed them. Since 
it is incumbent upon us, by virtue of the office we 
hold at court, to oppose and denounce everything 
that is an offence and a dishonour to the Divine 
Majesty and to souls and, to the extent of our 
powers, to exhort until all such be extirpated, we 
have decided, before adopting other measures, to 
come before your lordships and make our purpose 

128 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

known, and to supplicate you to consent to explain 
to us how it has been possible to permit such a great 
evil without remedying it; and that since it has 
not until now been stopped — for it goes on to-day 
with full license — you should devise means to remedy 
it. It is manifest that by so doing, your lordships 
will receive signal recompense, while by refusing, 
you will, on the contrary, receive terrible torments, 
for you bear on your shoulders the heaviest and 
most dangerous burden, if you well consider it, of 
any men in the world to-day. We likewise beseech 
your lordships, with all due humility and reverence, 
not to attribute our coming to temerity, but to 
accept and judge it by the spirit that has prompted 
it, which is the wish to act according to God's 
precepts as we are obliged to do." 

The Council — composed of such dignitaries as 
the Grand Commander of Castile, Don Garcia de 
Padilla, the distinguished man of letters, Peter 
Martyr, Francisco de los Cobos, and others — listened 
aghast to this speech, which was followed by a 
moment of silence that none of them felt prepared 
to break. The Bishop, whose wrath had waxed 
during the discourse, rose with an air of great au- 
thority and majesty to reply. 

" Great indeed," he said, "has been your pre- 
sumption and daring to come to correct the Council 
of the King. Casas must be at the bottom of this; 
who puts you, the King's preachers, to meddle in 
government affairs which the King entrusts to his 
Councils? The King does not maintain you for 
this, but to preach the Gospel." 

The Court Preachers 129 

The rebuke fell flat, nor were the theologians one 
whit overawed by the Bishop's high tone, for which 
they were not unprepared. Father Lafuente, who 
answered, began with a pun: "There is no Casas 
here but the Casa [house] of God, in which we 
officiate and for whose support and defence we are 
bound and ready to stake our lives. Does it appear 
presumption to your lordship that eight doctors 
of theology, who might properly address a whole 
General Council on matters of faith and govern- 
ment of the universal Church, should come to 
admonish a Council of the King? We may ad- 
monish the King's Councils for what they do wrong, 
for by our office we belong to the King's Council, 
and hence, gentlemen, we come here to admonish 
you and to require you to correct those most mis- 
guided and unjust actions, committed in the Indies 
to the perdition of souls and the offence of God. 
And if you do not correct these things, gentlemen, 
we shall preach against you as against those who do 
not keep the laws of God, nor act for the advantage 
of the King's service. This, gentlemen, is to fulfil 
and to preach the Gospel. " 

Such a threat was no despicable one, and the 
members of the Council were brought by it to a 
milder disposition than that disclosed by the testy 
reply of their President to Fray Miguel's opening 
discourse. Garcia Padilla undertook the apology 
of the Council, protesting that many excellent 
provisions in favour of the Indians had emanated 
from that body, whose intentions were good; he 
offered to submit these proofs of an equitable 

130 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

disposition to the theologians, though he observed 
that their presumption did not merit such courtesy. 
The tone of the discussion softened considerably, 
and it was decided that the various enactments 
of the Council already in vigour and those it pro- 
posed to put in operation should be presented to 
the theologians, who would later make known their 
opinion of them. These comprised the Laws of 
Burgos published in 1512 and the several amend- 
ments of Cardinal Ximenez. After hearing them 
read, the theologians withdrew, saying they would 
present their opinion at another sitting. 

Fray Miguel was deputed to draw up in writing 
their conclusions, which he did in the somewhat 
lengthy form common at that time, the sub- 
stance of the decision being that repartimientos 
and encomiendas were condemned absolutely, as 
the principal and direct cause of the destruction 
of the Indians; and second, that the only means for 
correcting the existing abuses and to civilise and 
convert the Indians was to form towns of at most 
twelve hundred householders. Las Casas was op- 
posed to the remedy, which he perceived to be not 
only without efficacy, but positively hurtful to the 
Indians, who would only deteriorate under such 
unfamiliar conditions. This divergence of opinion 
between Las Casas and the preachers introduced 
disunion where unity was the sole source of strength, 
and the inability to fix upon a remedy for the evils, 
which all were agreed cried out for one, destroyed 
the force of the representations in favour of the 
Indians. All were agreed that the actual state 

The Court Preachers 131 

of things was intolerable, but they could not agree 
upon the remedy to be adopted. In reality no laws 
could cope with the situation. A weak, retrograde 
race of ignorant people was suddenly brought into 
contact with the strong, active Spaniards, who car- 
ried with them a civilisation to which the former 
were inertly refractory. There was but the one 
possible outcome, which has repeated itself through- 
out the world's history — the weaker race had to 
go under. Neither the Utopia of Las Casas nor 
the laws proposed by the preachers nor any other 
conceivable arrangement could have saved them. 
The laws enacted were already more than sufficient 
to protect the natives from oppression and undue 
suffering, had their application been carried out 
in the spirit in which they were framed. Even 
the system of encomiendas might have been worked 
more rationally, and under it the condition of the 
Indians need not have been a particularly bad one. 
Paternal laws, paternally administered in the 
humane and religious spirit preached by the Do- 
minicans and Las Casas, might have furnished a 
remedy, but the character of the Spanish colonists, 
the prevalent greed for wealth, taken together 
with the indolent habits and temperament of the 
Indians, opposed unsurmountable obstacles. 

The zeal of Las Casas closed his eyes to these 
existing conditions, which foredoomed his efforts 
to failure and the Indians to destruction. For- 
tunately it was so, for he was thus enabled to con- 
tinue his struggle unflaggingly and to keep the 
public conscience in Spain awake to the work of 

132 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

justice to be accomplished. In this struggle lay the 
only hope of protecting the defenceless natives 
from undue excesses, of opposing some check to the 
injustice of the colonists, and of discharging the 
moral duty that Christian Spain had assumed 
towards her humble subjects in the New World. 

Seeing the Uselessness of further dealings with 
the preachers, Las Casas dropped that learned body, 
of which nothing further was ever heard in con- 
nection with Indian affairs. 

He next adopted the bold policy of formally 
accusing the whole Council of unfairness and par- 
tiality — a truly amazing act of courage on the part 
of a simple priest, even though he felt himself sup- 
ported by the sympathy of the Chancellor and 
several of the King's Flemish favourites. More as- 
tonishing must it have been to the members of 
that august body, that the sovereign should have 
ordered the impeachment to be taken into con- 
sideration. This decision was procured through 
the influence of the Chancellor, Gattinara, and 
bore with it the authorisation for Las Casas to des- 
ignate such persons as he deemed suitable, to 
sit in the Council with those he had accused, and to 
thus ensure his affairs an impartial hearing. At 
the same time M. de Laxao made known to him 
that the King desired such persons to be selected 
from among the members of other royal councils. 
His choice fell upon Don Juan Manuel, Alonso 
Tellez, the Marquis de Aguilar del Campo, the 
licentiate Vargas, and all the Flemings who had 
seats in Councils. Besides these, the King desired 

Further Controversies 133 

that whenever the affairs of Las Casas were to come 
-under consideration, the voting members of all 
other Councils, including those of War and of the 
Inquisition, should be present. In virtue of this 
command, the Cardinal Adrian, who was at that 
time Grand Inquisitor of Spain, sometimes assisted. 
This newly constituted Council met rarely, owing 
to the pressure of public matters of grave importance 
to the country, and the Bishop of Burgos, who was 
mortally vexed by the royal decision in favour of 
Las Casas' s complaint, was fertile in pretexts for 
creating delays. To counteract such procrastina- 
tion, the Grand Chancellor adopted the policy of 
citing the Bishop to Council meetings without 
specifying the nature of the business to be con- 
sidered, and when the unsuspecting prelate ap- 
peared, expecting to treat matters of state, he 
frequently had Las Casas and his Indian affairs 
sprung upon him. The number of the Council 
being increased by the admission of the new mem- 
bers from five to more than thirty, the Bishop was 
powerless to oppose effective resistance, as he could 
only count on the votes of his five original asso- 
ciates. Nor did the clipping of the Bishop's claws 
stop there, for whenever he appeared at Court, 
some of the Flemings contrived, to his intense 
disgust, to bring the subject of the Indies to the 
King's attention, so that it only remained for him 
to appear as rarely as possible. 

The Council having consented to the projects 
of Las Casas, in spite of the Bishop's persistent 
opposition, orders were given for the necessary 

134 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

authorisations for carrying out his proposed plan. 
At this juncture the Bishop discovered an ally in 
the person of Gonzalez Fernandez de Oviedo, author 
of the Historia natural y moral de las Indias, who 
had passed much time in America and was highly 
esteemed as an authority in Indian matters. Oviedo 
was presented to the Chancellor and explained his 
reasons for condemning the plans of Las Casas, 
but failed to change Gattinara's opinion. Repre- 
sentatives of the colonists in Cuba and Hispaniola 
spared no effort to defeat their opponent, promis- 
ing, if the concessions Las Casas was asking were 
granted to them, to pay triple the income to the 
Crown which the latter offered. This offer by the 
procurators of the colonists was not ignored, and, 
by command of the King, was laid before the Council 
for consideration. This led to further discussion, 
for Las Casas was invited to respond to the counter 
proposals, which he did with even more than his 
usual eloquence. A special meeting was called, 
before which Las Casas was plied with questions 
and objections to his plans; but if his enemies 
thought to find him lacking in ready response, they 
were sadly deceived, for the promptness with which 
he disposed of every objection, the clearness with 
which he answered every question, and the ear- 
nestness with which he vindicated the cause of the 
Indians and flayed their oppressors, ended by con- 
vincing even the most indifferent. The brother of the 
Bishop, Antonio de Fonseca, challenged Las Casas 
for unjustly accusing the members of the Council 
of killing the Indians, whereas thanks to his meas- 

Further Controversies 135 

ures such members had long since been obliged to 
surrender their encomiendas ; to this argument Las 
Casas retorted: "Sir, their lordships have not 
killed all the Indians, but they did kill an infinite 
number while they had them, though the principal 
and greatest destruction has been committed by 
individual Spaniards with the assistance of their 
lordships." It was obviously impossible to dis- 
cuss in open council with a man who talked thus, 
and when the Bishop himself, goaded to impatience, 
exclaimed, "Well instructed indeed is a member 
of the King's Council who, because he is a member, 
finds himself in conflict with Casas!" he got his 
answer from the imperturbable priest — "Better in- 
structed still is Casas, my lord, who, after having 
come two thousand leagues at great risk and peril 
to save the King and his Council from going to hell 
on account of the tyrannies and destructions of 
peoples and kings which are perpetrated in the 
Indies, instead of being well received and thanked 
for his service, is forced into conflict with the 
Council." This ended the discussion, and the con- 
cession already granted to Las Casas, was ratified. 
Nothing, however, was ever really ended in Spain 
in those days and too many passions had been 
aroused, too many interests compromised, for the 
enemies of Las Casas ever to acquiesce in his vic- 
tory. The Bishop of Burgos was the last man 
to accept such a defeat, and to his original stubborn 
and interested opposition was now added a desire 
for vengeance on his plain-spoken and successful 
opponent. From the material contained in all 

136 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the numberless petitions from the colonies which 
he had received at various times, he drew up a 
memorial to the King, containing thirty reasons 
why the concession granted to Las Casas should be 
refused. When these thirty objections were ready, 
the Bishop asked the Chancellor to summon a 
special meeting of the Council, before which they 
were read. Las Casas was not present at this 
meeting, but both Cardinal Adrian and the Chan- 
cellor notified him and advised him to reply 
immediately. The Chancellor's request to the secre- 
tary of the Council, Cobos, to furnish him a copy 
of the memorial meeting with no reply, he sent 
a formal demand for the memorial to be delivered 
to him without further delay; no denial was possible, 
but the Council only delivered him the document 
on the sworn assurance that it should not leave 
his hands. Gattinara gave the required promise, 
but invited Las Casas and M. de Laxao to supper 
at his house that evening, and, laying the great 
dossier on the table, said to Las Casas, "Now make 
your answer to these objections advanced against 

"How, my lord," answered Las Casas; "they 
were three months in forging and drawing them 
up, and after reading them at your convenience, it 
took your lordship two months to get possession 
of them, and now I am to answer them in the space 
of a Credo! Give me five hours and your lordship 
shall see what I answer." 

As his promise prevented the delivery of the 
memorial to Las Casas, the Chancellor arranged a 

Further Controversies 137 

table for him in his own apartment where he could 
compose his reply, advising him to make it in the 
form of answers to questions supposed to be ad- 
dressed to him by the King. For four nights Las 
Casas laboured on his composition until eleven 
o'clock, at which hour he supped with the Chan- 
cellor and afterwards returned at midnight to his 
lodging, not without fears for his personal safety, 
for his enemies were as numerous as they were 
powerful and sufficiently unscrupulous to use any 
means for silencing him. 

No copy exists of these thirty objections and the 
answers made to them, and Las Casas says that 
the originals were burned. From the little that is 
known of the former, they seem to have been so 
frivolous and strained that it is amazing the Council 
listened to them with patience or that the Chan- 
cellor deemed them worthy of a reply. The first, 
for example, stated that, as Las Casas was a priest, 
the King had no jurisdiction over him to restrain 
his actions in the territory conceded him ; the second 
asserted that by his turbulence he had provoked 
grave scandals in Cuba; the third pointed out the 
danger of his forming an alliance with the Venetians 
or Genoese and delivering to them the profits of 
his colony; another accused him of having deceived 
Cardinal Ximenez, and the thirtieth or last of all 
oracularly stated that there were some secret things 
known about him of such a damaging nature that they 
could only be confided to the King's private ear, and 
hence were not set down in writing. This ancient 
method of Court intriguers everywhere, whose 

138 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

mysterious accusations can only be made in se- 
crecy, without the accuser's identity being dis- 
closed, is always new and is ever useful in cases 
where the condemnation of the accused is deter- 
mined beforehand. 

Fortunately the Chancellor loved the light, and 
Las Casas was furnished the opportunity of seeing 
and refuting the accusations against him, which he 
did with entire success, not only clearing himself 
of every charge invented to discredit him, but, 
turning the tables on his detractors, he threw a 
flood of light on the maladministration of the col- 
onies and the peculations from the royal revenues 
by the Spanish officials. This crushing answer, which 
filled more than twelve sheets of paper, was read 
at a special meeting of the Council, which the Chan- 
cellor had summoned without letting its object be 
known, and reduced his enemies to humiliated 
silence. The only observation which even the usu- 
ally ready Bishop found to offer was that the 
answer had been prepared for Las Casas by the 
Court preachers. The feebleness of this must have 
struck all present, and the Chancellor with fine 
irony asked: "You now hold that Micer Bartholo- 
mew is so lacking in argument and discretion that 
he has to find somebody else to answer for him? 
From what I have heard of him he is equal to this 
and to more besides." 

Gattinara presented a full report of the proceed- 
ings to the King, with the result that the grant 
and privileges already conceded to Las Casas were 
fully confirmed. Skirmishing between him and the 

Further Controversies 139 

Bishop went on as usual during the final settlement 
of the details with the Council and on one occasion 
Las Casas exclaimed to him, "By my faith, my 
lord, you have fairly sold me the Gospel and since 
it is paid for, now deliver it I" 



THE troubles of Las Casas, however, were not 
yet over, nor did the opposition to his projects 
relax; on the contrary, the arrival at Barce- 
lona in 1 5 19 of Fray Juan Quevedo, the first Bishop 
of Darien, brought a new combatant into the field 
against him. On his way from Darien to Spain, 
Quevedo had stopped in Cuba, where he had heard 
the complaints of the enraged colonists, who de- 
clared that unless his mad campaign against his 
fellow-countrymen was stopped Las Casas would 
ruin the island, impoverish them all, and destroy 
every source of revenue. It was thought that 
Diego Velasquez paid Quevedo to controvert 
the representations of Las Casas and to plead the 
cause of the colonists at Court. As he was a man 
of considerable weight and an excellent preacher, 
Velasquez hoped he might win the King to his way 
of thinking. Arriving at Court, thus prepared to 
advocate the interests of Velasquez and the col- 
onists, Quevedo was no mean antagonist. The first 
meeting between him and Las Casas took place in 
the royal ante-chamber where, on being told who 

the newly arrived prelate was, the clerigo approached 


Bishop of Darien 141 

him saying, "My lord, since I am interested in the 
Indies, it is my duty to kiss your hand." The 
Bishop asked who the strange priest was and, on 
being told, exclaimed with some arrogance, "Oh, 
Sefior Casas! and what sermon have you got to 
preach to us?' : Had he known Las Casas better 
he would have adopted other tactics, for the clerigo 
was not the kind of man to attack. He answered: 
"Certainly, my lord, since some time I have wished 
to hear your lordship preach, but I assure your 
lordship that I have a pair of sermons ready, which 
if you wish to hear and consider them, may be 
worth more than all the money you have brought 
from the Indies." 

This exchange of thinly veiled hostilities was cut 
short by the appearance of the Bishop of Badajoz, 
who came out from audience with the King, and 
took Quevedo off with him to dinner. To forestall 
any unfavourable influence which Quevedo might 
seek to exercise on the Bishop of Badajoz, who was 
friendly to Las Casas, the latter made a point of 
going after dinner to the Bishop's house, where he 
found an illustrious company comprising, amongst 
others, the Admiral, Don Diego Columbus, playing 
chequers. Somebody remarked that wheat was 
grown in Hispaniola, to which Quevedo replied that 
it was impossible. Las Casas, who happened to 
have in his pocket-book some specimen grains which 
he had gathered in the garden of the monastery 
of St. Dominic, mildly observed, "It is certain, my 
lord, for I have seen it of excellent quality in that 
island, and I may even say, look at it yourself, for 

142 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

I have some with me." The Bishop lost his tem- 
per and answered with great asperity: "What do 
you know? This is like the affairs you man- 
age! What do you know about the matters you 

"Are my affairs evil or unjust, my lord," asked 
Las Casas. The Bishop even more testily ex- 
claimed, "What do you know, or what knowledge 
and learning have you that you venture to handle 
these affairs?" Though mindful not to annoy the 
Bishop of Badajoz, Las Casas let himself go some- 
what, and with something of Quevedo's asperity 
replied that his knowledge and learning might be 
even less than the Bishop conceded, but he (the 
Bishop), instead of defending his flock against the 
tyranny of the Spaniards, lived on their very flesh 
and blood, and that if he did not restore to the last 
penny what he had squeezed out of them, he had 
no more chance of salvation than had Judas. The 
host interfered to allay the rising choler of his 
guests, and Las Casas shortly after withdrew. The 
incident, however, had its consequences, for the 
Bishop of Badajoz related the occurrence to the 
King, who, thinking that a polemical tournament 
between Las Casas and Quevedo in the royal pres- 
ence might be something worth hearing, ordered 
that both should appear before him three days 
later, to debate the subject. A Franciscan friar, 
newly arrived from the Indies, where he had wit- 
nessed the state of things, happened along just 
then and sought out Las Casas to express his full 
sympathy with the latter' s efforts on behalf of the 

The Debate 143 

natives. The Franciscan began a series of sermons 
in a church near the palace, to which a number of 
the Flemings listened, afterwards reporting their 
impressions to the King. His Majesty therefore 
commanded that the monk should also be present 
on the occasion of the discussion between Las Casas 
and Quevedo. The appearance of the Franciscan 
was not to Quevedo's liking, and he somewhat 
tartly remarked to him that the Court was no place 
for monks, who had much better be in their cells. 
As the Bishop himself was of the same Order, the 
monk aptly retorted that he was of the like opinion 
and that ' ' all of us monks would be better off in our 
cells." Quevedo seems to have rarely come out 
ahead in the verbal skirmishes his choleric temper 
prompted him to provoke. 

The account given by Las Casas of the debate 
before the King gives us a good picture of the 
stately ceremonial observed at the Court of Charles 
V. The King being seated on his throne, the 
others present were accommodated on benches ex- 
tending along both sides of the audience chamber; 
to the right of the King sat M. de Chievres, next 
to whom was the Admiral Don Diego Columbus; 
then the Bishop of Darien and finally the licentiate, 
Aguirre. On the left hand of the throne was seated 
the Grand Chancellor, next to whom came the 
Bishop of Badajoz and so on with the others in their 
order of precedence. Las Casas and the Franciscan 
stood at the foot of the room, opposite the throne. 

After a moment of silence following the seat- 
ing of the Court, M. de Chievres and the Grand 

i44 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Chancellor rose, advanced together, and mounting 
the steps of the throne knelt before the King, to 
whom they spoke in whispers as though receiving 
some secret instructions. Returning then to their 
respective places and being again seated, the Chan- 
cellor said, "Reverend Bishop, his Majesty com- 
mands that if you have anything to say concerning 
the Indies you shall speak." The Bishop of Darien 
rose and began with an eloquent exordium in the 
classical style customary in such discourses at that 
time and which produced the best impression on his 
hearers. He declared that he had long desired the 
honour of appearing in the royal presence, and now 
that God had satisfied his wish, he recognised that 
fades Priami digna erat imperio, which was a 
graceful reference to the Imperial dignity to which 
the young monarch had recently been elected in 
Germany. He asked, however, that as the matters 
he had to present to his Majesty's attention were 
of a private nature, all those present who were not 
members of the Council should be ordered to with- 
draw. The Chancellor signed to him to be seated 
and again he and M. de Chievres approached the 
throne with the same ceremonial and after having 
received the royal commands, sotto voce, they re- 
turned to their places and the Chancellor said, 
"Reverend Bishop, his Majesty commands that 
if you have anything to say, you shall speak." 
The Bishop however repeated his demand that all 
those not of the Council should withdraw, and a 
third time the Chancellor and M. de Chievres went 
through the ceremony of receiving the royal com- 

The Debate 145 

mands. Again the Chancellor, when he resumed 
his place, said, ''Reverend Bishop, his Majesty 
commands that if you have anything to say, you 
shall speak, for all here present have been called to 
be of this Council. " 

The Bishop's efforts to exclude Las Casas and 
the Franciscan being thus defeated, for it was im- 
possible for him to insist further, he began as fol- 
lows: "Most potent lord, the Catholic King, your 
grandfather (may he rest in holy glory) commanded 
the construction of an armada to go and make settle- 
ments on the mainland of the Indies and solicited 
our very Holy Father to create me Bishop of that 
first settlement ; besides the time occupied in coming 
and going, I have been there five years, and as a 
numerous company went and we only had pro- 
visions enough for the journey, all the rest of our 
people died of hunger : the remainder of us who sur- 
vived, in order to escape the fate of the others, have 
done nothing during all that time but rob and kill 
and eat. As I perceived that that country was going 
to perdition and that its first governor was bad 
and the second worse, I determined to return and 
report these things to our King and Lord in whom 
is all the hope of a remedy. As for the Indians, 
judging by the accounts of those in that country 
whence I come, and those of others whom I saw 
on my way, they are a natura slaves." The re- 
mainder of this speech has not been preserved, but 
the opening of it was singular enough, considering 
that it was delivered by the advocate of the colonists 
and one of the bitterest opponents of Las Casas. 


146 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

At its conclusion the ceremony of taking the royal 
orders was repeated and the Chancellor commanded 
Micer Bartholomew in the King's name to speak. 

The speech which Las Casas then delivered is 
given, in part, in the third part of his Historia 
General. 1 In it he declared that he had accepted 
his vocation not to please the King but to serve 
God and that he renounced, once for all, any tem- 
poral honour or favour his Majesty might ever wish 
to confer upon him. A remarkably bold sentence 
followed: "It is positive, speaking with all the 
respect and reverence due to so great a King and 
Lord, that I would not move from here to that 
corner to serve your Majesty, saving my fidelity as a 
subject, unless I thought and believed I would 
render service to God by so doing." The chief 
point in the Bishop's discourse which he contro- 
verted, was the assertion that the Indians were by 
nature slaves. He was supported throughout, and 
especially on this point, by the Franciscan; and 
even the Admiral Diego Columbus, who had himself 
held encomiendas and whose renowned father had 
indeed initiated the very abuses which were be- 
ing denounced, bore witness to the truth of his 
statements and the weight of his arguments. 
When Las Casas had finished, Quevedo, who ex- 
pressed his wish to reply, was notified that any- 
thing further he had to say must be submitted in 
writing. This closed the audience and the King 

In conformity with the King's order that his 

1 Cap. cxlix. 

The Debate 147 

answer to Las Casas should be presented in writing 
the Bishop of Darien prepared two statements, 
one of which set forth all the various abuses and the 
destruction caused by the Spaniards in that colony, 
while the other contained suggestions for remedying 
those evils ; one of these remedies was the prohibition 
of the customary raids amongst the Indian tribes 
and the other was that the peaceable Indians should 
be induced to live in villages where they might be 
taught, and also pay some tribute to the Crown. 
The Bishop's view of the lamentable state of things 
in the colony, his condemnation of the violent 
conduct of the Spaniards, and his opinion that it 
was urgent to introduce a new system for regulating 
the relations between the colonists and natives seem 
not to have differed from those of Las Casas himself, 
and both the corrective measures he proposed met 
with the latter' s hearty approval. These memo- 
rials were first read by the Bishop to the Chan- 
cellor and M. Laxao, both of whom were highly 
satisfied to discover such unexpected conformity 
with the representations of their friend the clerigo. 
When asked by them what he thought of Las Casas's 
projects, the Bishop replied that he found them 
excellent and most just. 

This singular conversion of the Bishop of Darien 
from a formidable opponent into a supporter, de- 
lighted Las Casas, who, when the Chancellor showed 
him the two memorials, asked for a pen that he too 
might sign them, saying: "Did I ever tell your 
lordship more than the Bishop has here admitted? 
What greater cruelties, murders, and destruction 

148 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

in that country have I ever reported to your lord- 
ship than these?" 

What influence worked upon Quevedo does not 
appear; whether he perceived that the King looked 
with sympathy on the enthusiastic Las Casas and 
that the latter was high in favour with the impor- 
tant Flemish group at Court and therefore sure to 
carry his point, and so decided, as a practised court- 
ier, to pass over to the winning side, or whether 
under his choleric exterior there was a chord that 
responded to the sufferings of the obscure Indians 
in their miseries, and a sense of justice that was 
outraged by the rapacious cruelty of his country- 
men, we have no means of knowing. Shortly 
afterwards he fell dangerously ill of a sickness which 
carried him off in three days. Las Casas was much 
impressed by his Christian end and by the fact that 
before he died he had been moved to testify to the 
true condition of things in the Indies, than which 
no other act on his part could have been a better 
preparation for death. 

The affairs of Las Casas were now well advanced 
and all seemed plain sailing ahead; he conferred 
with Diego Columbus, Admiral of the Indies, con- 
cerning the foundation of the forts he had under- 
taken to build along the coast at intervals of one 
hundred leagues from one another. These forts 
were to serve for defence and also as centres of 
trade to which the Indians would be attracted 
to bring their gold, pearls, and other things of 
value to be exchanged for the Spanish merchandise 
they prized — hawks' -bells, beads of coloured glass, 

Disagreement with Columbus 149 

and like trifles. The Admiral was in agreement 
with this project, until he consulted his brother 
Fernando Columbus, who suggested to him that 
he should ask from the King the administration 
of justice in the new settlements and their exten- 
sions. Las Casas opposed this project, but the 
Admiral followed his brother's counsel and presented 
his petition to the Council, where it was disallowed; 
the Admiral in consequence took no further interest 
in the plan and thus Las Casas was deprived of his 
valuable support. 



AS the date for the King's departure from Spain 
to assume the imperial dignity drew near, 
the opposition to his leaving grew so strong 
that the question of stopping him by force, if neces- 
sary, was even mooted, and various parts of Spain 
were in a state of ferment bordering on civil war. 
Charles left Barcelona and proceeded through 
Aragon to Burgos and from thence to Corufia, where 
he had summoned the Cortes of Castile to assemble. 
This city had been chosen, partly because it was 
a convenient port of embarkation and partly, 
also, because the tide of opposition and hatred 
against the Flemish courtiers had reached such a 
height that they felt it wiser to keep to a seaport, 
from whence flight would be easier than from an 
inland town, in case their position became un- 
tenable after the King's departure. 

In the midst of such preoccupations, it required 
all the energy and unflagging perseverance of Las 
Casas to keep his affairs to the front and save them 
from being forgotten ; as it was, even he had moments 
of discouragement in which he was tempted to drop 
the whole matter and retire from the Court. His 


Royal Grant 151 

faithful Flemings, however, did not fail him, and 
with their aid, he managed to get no less than seven 
days in the month of May devoted to Indian affairs, 
before the sovereign sailed from Corufia. 

During one of these sittings of the Council, 
Cardinal Adrian contrived to overcome the oppo- 
sition which was still active against Las Casas, by 
a masterly discourse, in which he proved that by 
all natural and divine laws, the policy so far pur- 
sued in the Indies was a mistaken one, and that the 
Indians must be civilised and converted by humane 
and peaceful means. The desired grant was finally 
made and consisted of two hundred and sixty 
leagues of coast between Paria and Santa Marta, 
inclusively, and extending inland in a direct line 
from its two extremities to the South Sea. The 
text of this grant, which Charles V. signed in Corufia 
on May 19, 1520, fills several chapters of the third 
part of the Historia General de las Indias. 

All the necessary formalities having been com- 
plied with and all obstacles overcome, Las Casas 
was at last ready to launch his colonial venture. 
Friends in Seville advanced him loans of money 
and others presented him with a quantity of articles 
of trade, of small enough value in Spain but of great 
worth in the eyes of the Indians. The fifty men 
who were to adopt the white habit of the Knights 
of the Golden Spur had not been selected, but it was 
thought well to begin the settlement with labourers 
and perhaps to choose the candidates for the new 
knighthood from amongst the Spaniards already 
settled in the Indies. He sailed with his little 

152 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

company from San Lucar de Barrameda on No- 
vember 11, 1520, and after an uneventful voyage 
reached the island of Puerto Rico, called by the 
Indians Boriquen, and first named San Juan by the 

While Las Casas had been sustaining his long 
struggle in Spain in behalf of the Indians, a series 
of disastrous events had occurred in America, 
which created serious obstacles in the way of his 
scheme for colonisation. In 15 18 some Dominican 
and Franciscan friars had founded two convents 
on the Pearl Coast, the former at Chiribichi and the 
latter at Maracapana, some seven leagues distant 
at the mouth of the Cumana River and just opposite 
the island of Cubagua. These religious communities 
had established the most peaceful relations with all 
the Indians in their neighbourhood and the friars 
came and went with perfect freedom, being wel- 
comed in all the villages. All went quietly until 
the arrival of one Alonzo de Ojeda, who came from 
Cubagua, engaged ostensibly in the pearl trade, 
but likewise in raiding for slaves. Pearl diving was 
as perilous and fatal an occupation for the Indians 
as the work in the mines of Hispaniola and Cuba, 
and such numbers had perished in Cubagua that it 
was necessary to replenish the vacancies by bring- 
ing others from the neighbouring mainland. When 
Ojeda landed at Chiribichi he repaired to the con- 
vent, where he found but one priest and a lay- 
brother, all the others being absent, preaching to 
the Spaniards in Cubagua. As he expressed a wish 
to see the cacique, Maraguey, the priest, thinking 





rrameda on No- 

entful voyage 

by the 

y the 



Las (.' - 
:. in Spa 

reated serious 'o 
for colonisation. In 

riars had founded 

ler at Chiribich' 

leagues distant 

Adrian VI. | j ust opposite 

From an old Italian print, mmunities 

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The Pearl Coast 153 

no evil, sent to invite the Indian to come to the 
monastery; on his arrival, Ojeda began to question 
him as to whether cannibalism was practised by 
any tribes in the neighbourhood, his answers being 
taken down on paper by a notary. The cacique 
declared that there were no cannibals thereabouts 
and, being displeased by the questions and alarmed 
by the formalities of ink and paper, he quickly 
withdrew. Ojeda next went to the convent at 
Maracapana, where the cacique, called Gil Gon- 
zalez, came to meet him with every demonstration 
of friendship. Ojeda declared he had come to trade 
and wished to buy maize, and on the day following 
his arrival he left with fifteen of his men to go 
inland in search of the grain. Fifty Indians trans- 
ported the loads from the interior to the coast, and 
while these bearers were resting, the Spaniards 
suddenly drew their weapons, killing some who 
tried to escape and forcing all the others on board 
their caravel. The effect of this act of unprovoked 
treachery in a peaceful settlement, where the In- 
dians had received the new-comers with every 
hospitality as guests, may be easily imagined, and 
as was natural, Gil Gonzalez planned vengeance for 
the outrage. The scene at the convent whither 
the cacique of Chiribichi had been summoned by his 
friend the priest, and the impressive formality 
of the writing with pen and paper furnished by the 
priest, unfortunately identified the monks in the 
minds of the Indians with Ojeda and his exploits. 
The alarm was passed all along the coast, and the 
Indians bided the moment for a favourable attack; 

i54 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

nor had they long to wait, for Ojeda, accompanied 
by ten men, came on shore again on Saturday as 
indifferently as though nothing had happened. 
Gil Gonzalez affected to receive them in a 
friendly manner, but no sooner had they reached 
the village than the Indians fell upon them, killing 
Ojeda and several others, while the remainder 
barely succeeded in reaching the caravel. The 
Indians even went out in canoes to attack the 
vessel but were repulsed, and the Spaniards, setting 
sail, put to sea. 

The defenceless friars remained, however, and at 
Chiribichi the priest, while vesting to say mass, and 
the lay-brother were both killed by the people of 
the cacique Maraguey and the convent was burned. 
So great was the fury of the Indians that they even 
killed a horse with which the monks worked in 
their garden. 

The news of this massacre reaching Hispaniola 
from the Spaniards at Cubagua, the royal Au- 
diencia at once despatched a small force under 
Gonzalo de Ocampo to punish the Indians, and the 
disheartening news of these turbulent events was 
the greeting that met Las Casas on his arrival 
at Puerto Rico. Knowing that Ocampo's armada 
would touch there on its way to the Pearl Coast, 
he determined to await its arrival, where in fact 
Ocampo appeared within a few days. Las Casas 
had been a neighbour of his in other days and, 
though he knew that his treatment of the Indians 
did not differ from that of the other colonists, he 
held him in some esteem. He showed Ocampo 

Las Casas in Hispaniola 155 

his cedulas with the royal signature, which pro- 
hibited any Spaniards from landing, against his 
will, in the territory granted to him, and he for- 
mally required him to desist from his errand of 
vengeance. Ocampo answered that, while he did 
not refuse obedience to the royal commands, he 
was in this instance acting under the orders of the 
royal Audiencia and was obliged to carry out the 
instructions he had received; the responsibility lay 
with the Audiencia, which would protect him from 
any consequences following the execution of its 

Seeing that Ocampo was not to be stopped, Las 
Casas resolved to go himself to Hispaniola, show 
his powers to the Audiencia, and exact the recall 
of the fleet. Meanwhile he placed his colonists 
amongst the various planters of Puerto Rico, who 
were glad enough to welcome labourers, who were 
scarce in the island. This decision of Las Casas was 
a most mistaken one and was the outcome of an 
error of judgment which did not require the light 
of after events to make plain. More was certainly 
to be hoped from his presence on the spot, and from 
the influence he might exercise over Ocampo, than 
from anything he could obtain from the Audiencia, 
whose members were his bitterest enemies. It 
was, moreover, impossible for any counter-orders 
he might be able to wrest from the reluctant Au- 
diencia, to reach the Pearl Coast in time to stop the 
action of Ocampo, and Las Casas does not even 
appear to have sought to detain the latter in Puerto 
Rico, pending the arrival of further instructions. 

156 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

After dividing his colonists, who thus became scat- 
tered, and lost touch with him and with one an- 
other, Las Casas bought a vessel for five hundred 
dollars — an enormous sum at the time — in which 
he sailed for Hispaniola. His arrival in Santo 
Domingo was most unwelcome and revived all the 
ancient odium of the colonists against him, for 
he was without doubt the best-hated man in 

He presented his papers to the Governor, and a 
meeting of some ten officials, who composed what 
was termed the Consulta and dealt with local ques- 
tions, was convoked to consider his demands. The 
first of these was, that the provisions of the royal 
grant to him should be formally published, according 
to custom, with sound of trumpet so that all the 
colonists might clearly understand the prohibition 
for any one to enter the territory conceded to him, 
without his permission, and that all Spaniards were 
commanded to treat the Indians humanely, and 
to keep faith with them in treaties and contracts 
under severe penalties at the King's pleasure. Sec- 
ond he demanded that the Consulta should order 
all Spaniards to quit the territory of his concession, 
and should recall Ocampo forthwith, as the murder 
of the friars there had been provoked by the 
barbarous conduct of Ojeda. 

As his previous experience might have taught 
him, the Consulta listened with gravity to his de- 
mands and permitted the proclamation of his 
cedulas, but when it came to taking any action to 
restrain Ocampo, reasons for delay were found and 

Las Casas in Hispaniola 157 

the matter dragged on without anything being 

It being to the interests of those colonists who 
were expecting a rich cargo of slaves to be brought 
back by Ocampo, from his punitive expedition, to 
hinder the departure of Las Casas and, if possible, 
to wreck his plans for colonising, divers means were 
invented to accomplish this object. A rumour 
was started that his five-hundred-dollar vessel was 
in a bad condition and unseaworthy ; the authorities 
decided that this point must be investigated, so 
several persons were named to examine the boat 
and report on her condition. They did so, and 
promptly reported that the vessel was not merely 
unseaworthy, but was in such a state that no re- 
pairs would make her so, and that the only course 
was to dismantle her. Thus Las Casas beheld his 
five hundred dollars vanish and himself a fixture 
in Hispaniola. 

Meanwhile Ocampo had reached the Pearl Coast 
and, feigning to come directly from Spain with 
merchandise and to be entirely ignorant of the 
murder of Ojeda and the friars, he succeeded in 
luring the cacique Gil Gonzalez close to his ship, 
when a naked sailor dived overboard, grappled with 
the cacique in his canoe and finally stabbed and 
killed him. A landing was then made and the 
country raided with the usual accompaniment of 
murders, torturings, and capturing of the natives, 
many of whom were carried on board the vessels 
and sent back to Hispaniola, to be sold as slaves. 
Ocampo, with others of his followers who remained 

158 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

behind, founded a town, half a league up the Cumana 
River, which he named New Toledo. 

The arrival of the slave cargo at Hispaniola, 
where Las Casas was still engaged in altercations 
with the authorities, threw him into a terrible rage. 
He protested vehemently before the Audiencia 
against the deliberate and open violation of the 
royal commands, whose contents had been publicly 
proclaimed, and he threatened to return forthwith 
to Spain and lay the case before the King, from 
whom he would obtain the punishment of the 
authors of the outrage and their condemnation 
to pay all the expenses of Ocampo's armada, 
which had been illegally charged to the Royal 

Nobody doubted that he was capable of exe- 
cuting his threat, and, since it was known that he 
enjoyed the protection of the all-powerful Flem- 
ings and was something of a favourite with the 
young King himself, the members of the Consulta 
and some of the principal men in the colony decided, 
after many discussions, that it would be well to 
appease the clerigo's wrath and come to some 
arrangement with him for their mutual benefit. It 
was then proposed to form a company, in which 
there should be twenty-four shareholders, each of 
whom should contribute an identical sum and 
derive an equal profit from the undertaking on the 
Pearl Coast. Six of the shares should be assigned 
to the Crown, six to Las Casas and his fifty knights of 
the Golden Spur, three to Admiral Diego Columbus, 
one to each of the four auditors of the Audiencia, 

The Company 159 

and the remaining five to the treasurer Pasamonte 
and the other officials of the Audiencia. 

This scheme was submitted to Las Casas, who 
must by that time have been well-nigh in despair, 
and, although it very materially changed his original 
plan, it offered the only possible means for carrying 
out his intentions, so he agreed to the formation 
of the company. The agreement upon which the 
company was based gave to Las Casas Ocampo's 
armada with several brigantines and barques and 
all their contents, and he was to choose amongst the 
three hundred followers of Ocampo one hundred 
and twenty, who should constitute the armed force 
of the new colony, under the latter' s command. 
This arrangement, so it was pretended, would leave 
Las Casas free to dedicate all his efforts to the 
conversion of the Indians. The last article of the 
agreement was almost comical. It provided that 
when Las Casas himself should denounce any In- 
dians as cannibals, the Spaniards should be bound to 
declare war against them and make slaves of them. 

He afterwards wrote concerning the articles of 
agreement as follows: 

Great was the blindness or ignorance — if indeed it 
was not malice — of those gentlemen to believe that the 
clerigo would ever fulfil those horrible and absurd 
conditions, knowing him to be a good Christian, not 
covetous, and ready to die to liberate and help in saving 
those people from the condition in which they were 

With his armada well equipped, and a plentiful 

160 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

supply of provisions and merchandise for trading 
purposes on board, Las Casas finally sailed from 
Hispaniola in July, 1521, directing his course first 
to the island of Mona, where a quantity of cassava 
bread was to be taken on board, and from thence 
to Puerto Rico, where he expected to collect his 
original colonists. On his arrival there, not one, 
however, was found to join the expedition, as they 
had long since dispersed throughout the island or 
had joined marauding expeditions to capture In- 
dians. This defection must have caused Las Casas 
great disappointment, for he had assembled these 
men with great care in Spain, choosing only such 
as he thought from their good character to be adapted 
for his ideal colony. The change which their new 
and strange surroundings had operated in these 
peaceful, simple folk was not unnatural; loosed 
from all the anchors that held them to habits of 
industry and probity, they found themselves caught 
in new currents; cupidity was awakened by the 
gold-fever that infected all the colonists, the pious 
projects with which they left Spain under the 
guidance of their apostolic leader were easily aban- 
doned when the influence of his enthusiasm was 
withdrawn, and they took to the freebooting ways 
and easy morals of the colonists with whom they 
were thrown. Las Casas had neglected to realise 
that they were not angels. 

On arriving at that part of the Pearl Coast called 
Cumana, it was found that Ocampo's colony of New 
Toledo was already in the throes of discontent from 
hunger and disease; his men had begun by pressing 

The Company 161 

the Indians into service, with the result that all the 
natives abandoned the country, leaving the Span- 
iards to starve. When it became known that those 
who chose might return to Hispaniola, every man 
of them declared he would go, so Las Casas was 
left with a few of his friends and some who were 
in his pay. Ocampo showed sincere regret and 
much sadness at abandoning his old friend, for 
whom, in spite of their differences, he had a sincere 
admiration, in such a plight. He took leave of him 
with many demonstrations of affection, and joining 
his men sailed away to Hispaniola. 

Las Casas was now in his long-desired territory, 
but the material for starting his colony was sadly 



SOME time before the events just recounted, 
Franciscan friars from Picardy had been 
sent to the Pearl Coast by the Prior Pedro 
de Cordoba, under the leadership of Fray Juan 
Garceto, and this little community heard the news 
of Las Casas's coming with profound joy. Upon 
his arrival, they came to meet him singing Te Deum 
Laudamus and Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. 
The convent was modest enough, being rudely 
constructed of wood and thatch, and the life of the 
friars in the midst of the vast wilderness about them 
was one of the most apostolic simplicity. The house 
stood about a musket-shot back from the Cumana 
River in a beautiful garden which, in such a climate, 
was not a difficult achievement. Las Casas built 
a large storehouse on one side of the garden for 
his trading merchandise and, through the friars and 
an Indian woman called Maria, who had learned 
Spanish, he published among the Indians that he 
had been sent by the new King of the Christians 
in Spain, and that henceforth there would be no 

more fighting, but all were to live together in peace 


The Ideal Colony 163 

and friendship. In order to attract them, he made 
them presents from his stores ; but it was not un- 
natural that the diffidence of the Indians should 
yield but slowly to these blandishments after the de- 
ceptions of which they had been the victims, and be- 
sides, Las Casas could not trust his own dependents, 
but had to keep a sharp eye continually on them, 
to prevent them scandalising and offending the 
natives. Under such discouraging circumstances, 
progress was inevitably slow. 

Not only were the Spaniards under his own con- 
trol in little harmony with the spirit of his in- 
tentions and as refractory as they dared be to his 
orders, but the pearl fishers on the island of Cubagua, 
who were a typical lot of godless ruffians, frequently 
came to the mainland, with the valid excuse that 
the absence of sweet water on their island obliged 
them to fetch their supply from the Cumana River. 
These expeditions for water were usually accom- 
panied by some disturbances with the Indians, 
some of whom were frequently captured and carried 
off to work in the pearl fisheries. 

To put a stop to these incursions into his territory, 
Las Casas contracted with a mason, for eight dollars 
in gold per month, to build him a fort at the mouth 
of the river; but the people at Cubagua, hearing 
of this project which would interrupt and control 
their movements, contrived to so influence the 
mason that he threw up his contract and abandoned 
the work, thus leaving the country defenceless. 
The Cubaguans seduced and ruined the Indians, 
chiefly by offering them liquors and spirits, which 

164 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

have always proved the white man's most attractive 
and destructive products to the savage and have 
ever gone in the vanguard of civilisation. The 
Indians gave everything they possessed for alcohol, 
even selling their fellows as slaves, in exchange for 
wines; these they drank to inordinate excess, and in 
the fury of their debauch quarrels broke out amongst 
them which ended in murders and a state of the 
most riotous disorder, against which Las Casas and 
the monks struggled in vain. The strongest repre- 
sentations and protests were made to the alcalde 
of Cubagua, whither Las Casas went in person, but, 
far from producing the desired result, his efforts 
to protect his own territory only served to excite 
increased resentment on the part of his lawless 
neighbours, and neither his own life nor that of the 
Franciscans was any longer safe from the threatened 
reprisals of their hostile countrymen. The situa- 
tion was one of the greatest gravity and even peril ; 
instead of showing promise of improvement, it 
grew daily worse; for, though the men at Cubagua 
were somewhat restrained from venturing upon open 
acts of hostility directed against him since they 
had seen what powers the royal cedulas gave him, 
their ingenuity in devising vexations, inventing 
contrarieties, and creating obstacles which effectually 
nullified all his efforts, was extraordinarily fertile. 
Fray Juan Garceto was of the opinion that Las 
Casas should return to Hispaniola to complain to 
the Audiencia and demand that some effective 
restraint be exercised upon the Spaniards at Cubagua 
or, failing of success there, that he should even go 


1 64 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

have always proved the white man's most attractive 
and destructive products to the savage and have 
ever gone in the vanguard of civilisation. The 
Indians gave everything they possessed for alcohol, 
even selling their fellows as slaves, in exchange for 
wines; these they drank to inordinate excess, and in 
the fury of their debauch quarrels broke out amongst 
them which ended in murders and a state of the 
most riotous disorder, against which Las Casas and 
the monks struggled in vain. The strongest repre- 
sentations and protests were made to the alcalde 
of Cubagua, whither Las Casas went in person, but, 
far from producing the desired result, his efforts 
to protect his own territory only served to excite 
increased resentment on the part of his lawless 
neighbours, and neither his own life nor that of the 
Franciscans was any longer safe from the threatened 
reprisals of their hostile countrymen. The situa- 
tion was one of the greatest gravity and even peril; 
instead of showing promise of improvement, it 
grew daily worse; for, though the men at Cubagua 
were somewhat restrained from venturing upon open 
acts of hostility directed against him since they 
had seen what powers the royal cedulas gave him, 
their ingenuity in devising vexations, inventing 
contrarieties, and creating obstacles which effectually 
nullified all his efforts, was extraordinarily fertile. 
Fray Juan Garceto was of the opinion that Las 
Casas should return to Hispaniola to complain to 
the Audiencia and demand that some effective 
restraint be exercised upon the Spaniards at Cubagua 
or, failing of success there, that he should even go 






% I c o 



The Ideal Colony 165 

to the King himself to obtain redress and the punish- 
ment of the offenders. This advice did not accord 
with Las Casas's own view, for he had reason to know 
how difficult it was to obtain anything from the 
Audiencia and how easy it was to evade even the 
most explicit provisions of royal cedulas, when it 
suited the interest of those concerned to do so. 
His absence at such a critical moment would also 
remove the one effective restraint on the lawlessness 
of the Cubaguans and doubtless result in the total 
destruction of his stores, which were valued at fifty 
thousand castellanos. Two vessels were lying off 
the coast, loading salt for Hispaniola, and during 
the days previous to their sailing both Las Casas 
and Fray Juan gave themselves up to earnest 
prayer and each offered his daily mass to obtain 
some divine guidance as to the right course to 
pursue, since they were in absolute disagreement. 
Las Casas prepared a full statement of the situation, 
and a petition asking the Audiencia to furnish the 
necessary remedy without delay, which he intended 
to despatch by one of the ship's captains in case 
he did not go himself when the sailing day came. 
The last day finally arrived, and Fray Juan, after 
saying his mass, sought Las Casas and said, "It is 
your duty, sir, to go and on no account to stop here." 
"God knows," replied Las Casas, "how much this 
goes against my judgment and my wishes but, since 
it seems right to your Reverence, I am willing to do 
it; if it is an error, I would rather err by the judg- 
ment of another than be right by my own, for I 
hope in God." The wisdom of submitting his 

166 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

judgment as an act of religious humility in a matter 
concerning his own spiritual welfare would have 
been laudable, but Las Casas was far more qualified 
to judge on a question of policy affecting the welfare 
of his enterprise than was Fray Juan Garceto, and 
the responsibility for repeating the blunder he had 
made in Puerto Rico of abandoning his colony, 
while he went off to protest to the Audiencia, must 
rest where it belongs — on his own shoulders — and 
not where he sought to put it — on those of the 
humble Franciscan. If somebody had to go — and 
it seems that the necessity was urgent— then Fray 
Juan had better have taken the letters and gone 
himself before the Audiencia, leaving Las Casas 
to withstand his enemies and keep his colony to- 
gether as best he could, until the Audiencia de- 
spatched some authority to effectively restrain the 
Cubaguans. His resolution taken, in accordance 
with the friar's inspiration, Las Casas appointed 
Francisco de Soto, a native of Olmedo, as captain 
during his absence and gave him full instructions 
for his guidance. It was especially impressed upon 
the captain that on no account should he permit the 
two vessels which the colony possessed to leave 
the harbour; he was to be on the alert and in case 
of open hostilities he was to load the merchandise 
on board if possible, but if not, then to save 
all his people and take refuge at Cubagua. 
Much preoccupied as to the fate of those he 
left behind and uncertain as to the wisdom of 
his course, Las Casas set out for Hispaniola, 
leaving all he possessed in the convent, save 

Fate of the Colonists 167 

one box of his clothing and another containing 
some books. 

It is illustrative of the capricious and light-hearted 
spirit of disobedience to all authority, save what 
force imposed, which characterised Spanish officials 
in America, that the first thing De Soto did, before 
the ship bearing Las Casas was barely out of sight, 
was to send away his two vessels, one in one di- 
rection and the other in the opposite, to fish for 
pearls and, if possible, to capture Indians. The 
natives were in a state of unrest owing to the con- 
tinual vexations of the people of Cubagua and also 
of Las Casas's men who, as soon as he was gone, 
became almost as bad as the others. The beautiful 
speeches in which peace and justice and friendship 
were promised for the future, under the powerful 
protection of the new King of Spain, had resulted in 
nothing, and the last illusion of the Indians vanished 
with the disappearance of the ship that bore their 
protector towards Hispaniola. A general massacre 
of the colony was concerted to take place about 
fifteen days after Las Casas left. The Franciscans 
got wind of it three days before the date fixed and 
though the Indian woman Maria, when asked, 
denied the plot in words, she conveyed to the friars 
by gestures that she had lied because the presence 
of other Indians intimidated her from telling the 
truth. A Spanish trading ship arrived in these 
days, but in spite of the colonists' prayers to be 
taken on board the captain refused, so the hapless 
men were left to their fate. At the last moment an 
effort was made to organise some defence and twelve 

1 68 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

or fourteen pieces of artillery were mounted around 
the storehouse, but when they came to examine 
the powder, it was found — oh, Spanish improvidence! 
— to be so damp that it was useless. At sunrise, 
they thought to dry it, but they were too late, for, 
with fierce war-whoops, the Indians were upon them ; 
three of their number were killed and the store- 
house, in which the others had barricaded them- 
selves, was set on fire. Fortunately there was a 
small door that gave access to the garden, through 
which they escaped from the burning building. 
De Soto, who had been out to reconnoitre the town, 
was wounded with a poisoned arrow, but managed 
to reach the garden where the others were. The 
friars had constructed a canal through their garden 
leading to the river and on this they had a large 
Indian canoe capable of holding fifty persons. 
This canoe was now their sole hope of safety and 
everybody managed to get into it, save one un- 
fortunate lay-brother who had taken refuge among 
some reeds along the bank and was only discovered 
after the canoe had pushed off. Seeing his com- 
panions borne swiftly away on the saving current, 
he rose from his hiding-place with despairing ges- 
tures of appeal, but though every effort was made 
to reach him it was in vain, and he, poor man, seeing 
that his situation was hopeless, signalled to them 
with pathetic heroism to leave him and save them- 
selves while they could. He was killed a few 
moments later when the Indians, not knowing of the 
egress into the garden and believing that all the 
Spaniards were inside the burning building, came 

Failure of the Enterprise 169 

round to the other side of the storehouse. When, 
they caught sight of the fugitives in the canoe, they 
quickly launched a swift pirogue and set out in 
pursuit of the canoe. The Spaniards had already 
doubled the point called Hraga and were a league 
down the river, but they were exhausted with hard 
rowing and the light pirogue of their pursuers gained 
so rapidly upon them that their only hope was to 
take refuge in the thick underbrush along the shore, 
where the Indians, being naked, could not penetrate 
on account of the thorns. The canoe and the 
pirogue touched land almost at the same time and 
not far from one another. Fray Juan afterwards 
recounted to Las Casas how he was overtaken by an 
Indian and, seeing the club raised to strike him, 
he threw himself on his knees, closed his eyes, and 
prepared for death; the blow did not fall, and on 
opening his eyes he found himself alone, with no 
Indian in sight. Finding it impossible to reach 
the Spaniards in their refuge in the thorny thicket, 
the Indians withdrew and the Christians, covered 
with blood from their many wounds, managed, 
though in a truly pitiable plight, to reach some 
boats which were loading salt not far off. It was 
then noticed for the first time that their captain, 
Francisco de Soto, was missing and, as some one 
remembered having seen him concealed under a 
great rock in the thicket, a boat was sent to look 
for him. After three days' search he was found, 
dying of thirst, and on being brought on board 
and given water, he finished himself by drinking to 
excess. Thus the author of all the mischief paid 

170 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the penalty of his imprudence and disobedience 
with his life. 

While the colonists were undergoing these suffer- 
ings, Las Casas found himself on board a vessel 
whose pilots, ignorant of the chart, carried him 
eighty leagues beyond the harbour of Hispaniola 
and wasted two months in beating against the 
currents to pass the little island La Beata. Seeing 
the hopeless incompetency of these men, he had 
himself put ashore at the harbour of Jaquimo some 
twenty leagues lower down, from whence he could 
go on to Jaguana and so across the island to the city 
of Santo Domingo. The news of the disaster at 
Cumana had long since reached Hispaniola and 
Las Casas heard of it in the following manner, while 
journeying on foot across the island with several 
companions. One day, while he was taking his 
afternoon siesta under a tree, a party of travellers 
joined his companions, who enquired what news 
there was in Santo Domingo or from Spain. The 
new-comers answered that the only recent news 
was that of the murder of the clerigo Las Casas and 
all his colony at Cumana by the Indians. '"We are 
witnesses to prove that that is impossible" replied 
the others, and the discussion which ensued awak- 
ened the clerigo who thus received the dishearten- 
ing tidings, which he was inclined to believe, of the 
total destruction of his hopes. He afterwards 
attributed this catastrophe to his own weakness 
in allowing himself to be drawn into a partnership 
with godless men, whose sole object was to enrich 
themselves, by which he had offended God and 

Failure of the Enterprise 171 

merited punishment. He would have done better 
to keep to his original plan of forming a religious 
company of Knights of the Golden Spur, who, aided 
by the friars, would have embarked with him on the 
conversion of the natives without mingling any 
expectation of profitable trade with their project. 
The struggle for immediate and inordinate gain, 
in which the Spanish colonists were engaged, with 
its slave raids, extermination of the Indians by 
selling them alcoholic liquors and forcing them into 
the dangerous labours of mining and pearl diving, 
was incompatible with such a colony as Las Casas 
designed to found, and the agreement into which 
he entered with the Audiencia of Hispaniola was 
bound to wreck his projects. 

Had the ability of Las Casas to direct his under- 
taking and to govern men been equal to his genius 
in the sphere of morals and intellect, and to the 
eloquence of his advocacy, the realisation of his 
ideal of justice and charity might have been assured. 
Certainly he contended against overwhelming odds ; 
in Spain, the Bishop of Burgos, who controlled 
American affairs, was implacably hostile ; in America, 
the colonial authorities and the entire population, 
barring the friars and a possible handful of his 
friends, were vigilantly opposed to him; deceived 
and betrayed by his Squire Berrio, he was disobeyed 
by De Soto and abandoned by his colonists, while 
all hope of establishing friendly relations with the 
Indians in the territory conceded to him was annihi- 
lated by the Spaniards at Cubagua, whose aggres- 
sions kept the whole country in a state of alarm. 

172 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

These untoward conditions, which no foresight 
on his part could have avoided, were alone sufficient 
to explain the failure of his enterprise. His plans 
seem, however, to have involved a contradiction 
of a fundamental law of human progress which 
decrees the destruction of rudimentary forms of 
civilisation when brought into contact with a higher 
one. Neither humane civil legislation nor the 
higher principles of Christian charity have thus 
far served to save the weaker races of mankind 
from absorption or extermination. The fiercer and 
stronger tribes of American Indians receded before 
the Anglo-Saxon invasion of their territories, leaving 
a trail of blood behind them, while the weaker 
nations of the islands and Southern Americas 
went down before the Spaniards, with hardly more 
than a plaintive cry for mercy. 

The price of civilisation is a high one, and as the 
peoples of Europe paid it, so were the aboriginal 
populations of America not exempted from the 
blood-tax. The obscure workings of the mys- 
terious laws of race-survival were forced on and 
hastened by the cruelties against which Las Casas 
protested in vain, but the triumphal march of human 
progress has followed on. Cannibalism, idolatry, 
slavery, and other barbarisms have disappeared 
from the American continents; the Christian re- 
ligion has replaced degrading superstitions, agri- 
culture and commerce flourish, while literature 
and the arts adorn life in the several republics, 
whose meanest citizen enjoys a security of life 
and property unknown to the proudest of their 

Failure of the Enterprise 173 

ancestors under the rule of Montezuma or the 

Belief in the principles of equity and charity 
forbids us to doubt that these and even nobler 
results might have been achieved by the methods 
advocated by Las Casas, but history records no 
racial expansion along other roads than that opened 
by the sword. 



ALTHOUGH held in general detestation in 
Hispaniola, as a seditious mischief-maker 
and an enemy of the Spaniards' interests, 
there were not wanting some sympathisers who, 
when Las Casas arrived, dejected and bankrupt, at 
Santo Domingo, received him kindly, and even 
offered to lend him five thousand ducats with which 
to begin again. 

The clear thinking and high resolution which had 
carried him through so many trials seemed at this 
time to fail him; nor indeed is there just cause for 
wonder, for there is a limit to human powers of 
endurance, and if ever a man was overtaken by a 
dark hour, Las Casas was he. In after years, he 
arraigned his own conduct at this period with undue 
severity, reflecting that as the Emperor was back 
in Spain with the Flemings, and his old friend 
Cardinal Adrian had become Pope, he might have 
accomplished his life's purpose of ending the suffer- 
ings of the Indians, had he only adopted the reso- 
lution of going directly to Spain. As it was, he 
wrote an extensive account to the Emperor of all 


Profession of Las Casas 175 

that had occurred and the causes that had brought 
on the calamity at Cumana. 

To the monks of the Dominican order, Las Casas 
had years since been united by the strong bonds 
of devotion to a common cause, which was the 
dominant influence, as it was the sole object, of his 
life. As they had accompanied and sustained him 
throughout his long struggle, so it was to them that 
he naturally turned for sympathy in the extremity 
of his disappointment, exiled, as he was, amidst the 
hostile colonists of Hispaniola. These were the 
saddest days of his tempestuous life, during which 
doubts began to penetrate his very soul — doubts 
of his own worthiness to carry on the mission to 
which he had believed himself called, doubts even 
as to whether it might not be ordained by the 
inscrutable wisdom of Divine Providence that the 
Indians should perish before the advance of the 
Spaniards. If this were true, then his life had been 
wasted in a vain conflict with the occult forces that 
govern the destiny of races. 

While waiting for answers to the letters he had 
written to Spain, he found his only consolation 
in his intercourse with the Dominican friars, with 
whom in fact he had been for years closely united in 
spirit. Fray Domingo de Betanzos exercised a 
great influence upon him at this time, and to him 
is due the decision of Las Casas to enter the 
Dominican Order. 

The discussions between the two must have been 
frequent and prolonged for, weary and disappointed 
as he was, Las Casas seems not to have yearned for 

176 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the seclusion of the cloister. To his objection that 
he must await the King's reply to his letter before 
taking a decision, Betanzos answered, "Decide now, 
father, for if you were to die meanwhile, who will 
receive the King's letters and orders?" These 
words sunk deep into his soul and from thence- 
forward he pondered seriously upon his vocation. 
Finally his mind was made up and he decided to 
imagine himself dead when the King's letter should 
arrive and so beyond the reach of royal commands. 
In 1522, he asked for the habit of the Order. 1 The 
news of his solemn profession, which took place 
in 1523, was received with great joy by the people 
outside the convent, though for very different 
reasons, for they assisted at his exit from the world 
and his entrance into the cloister with the same 
satisfaction with which they would have attended 
his funeral. While making his novitiate, the letters 
from the Cardinal (now Pope) Adrian and his Flemish 
friends at Court arrived. The Flemings urged his 
immediate return to Spain, promising him every 
assistance in their power, but the superiors of the 
monastery in Hispaniola did not deliver these dis- 
quieting epistles to their novice, for fear of shaking 
his resolution to persevere in his vocation. 

The earliest biographer of Las Casas, Antonio 
de Remesal, says that he was chosen Prior of the 
monastery, and this statement is supported by a 

1 Entrose en ella en el convento de la isla de Santo Domingo 
afio de 1522 recibiendo el sagrado abito de manos del maestro 
Fray Thomas de Berlanga que todasu vida seprecio y honro de 
tal hijo. Remesal, Hist, de Chiapa, lib. ii., cap. xxiii. 

Years of Study 177 

letter from the Auditors of Hispaniola dated June 
7, 1533, addressed to Prince Philip who was govern- 
ing Spain during the absence of the Emperor his 
father, in which Fray Bartholomew is mentioned 
as Prior of the Monastery of Santo Domingo in the 
town of Puerto de Plata. 1 

In chapter 146 of his Historia Apologetica, 
he himself speaks of "conferring the habit" on 
a novice, which he could only do if he were 

The first seven years that Las Casas passed in the 
seclusion of his monastery were not marked by any 
salient incident. He devoted himself with all the 
intensity of his nature to the practice of the austere 
rule of St. Dominic and became, as he himself after- 
wards described in writing of that period of his life, 
as though dead to the world, so little part did he 
have in the course of events outside his cloister's 
walls. He gave much time to the study of theology, 
especially to the works of St. Thomas Aquinas, 
the glory of the Dominican Order. These studies 
served to equip him with stores of canonical and 
philosophical learning which enabled him, when 
the time came, to sustain controversies with some 
of the most learned men in Europe. 

In the second chapter of his Historia Apologetica 
the following sentence occurs: "Three leagues to 
the west of the extremity of this plain is Puerto de 
Plata, and on a hill above and near by the town 
thus named there is a monastery of the Dominican 
Order, where the composition of this History was 

1 Fabi6, torn i., p. 127. 


178 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

begun in the year 1527, — to be finished when and 
where the will of God may ordain." 1 

In 1529, he lent his efforts to bringing to an end 
the long standing rebellion of the cacique Enrique, 
whose forces, in the mountains of Baranco, the 
Spaniards had fought at intervals during fourteen 
years in vain. This chief had been educated in the 
Franciscan convent at Vera Paz and was a man 
of unusual intelligence and superior courage; he 
married a beautiful Indian girl of good lineage and, 
with the Indians under his rule, was assigned in 
repartimiento to a Spaniard named Valenzuela, who 
began by robbing him of a valuable mare and 
ended by taking from him his wife. 

The cacique's protests were answered with a 
beating, and his complaints to the governor of 
St. Juan de la Maguana, one Pedro Vadillo, were 

This grievance led to an organised rebellion of 
the natives under Enrique, who assembled numerous 
forces. By constantly moving from place to place, 
he was able to elude the several Spanish expeditions 
sent against him. The course of these alternate 
hostilities and negotiations to obtain the submis- 
sion of Enrique, and the dispersal of his people, 
are described at length in chapters 125 and 126 
of the Hisioria General. Even the intervention of 
Fray Remigio, one of the Franciscans who had 
come from Picardy to Hispaniola, and who had been 

1 Helps was unable to find the authority this passage furnishes 
for Quintana's statement that the Historia General was begun 
in 1527. Life of Las Casas, p. 175. 

Cacique Enrique 179 

one of Enrique's teachers in the convent, failed 
to induce the offended cacique to surrender. News 
of the continued success of the rebellion reached 
Spain, and in 1527, Don Sebastian de Fuerileal was 
sent out as President of the Audiencia and Bishop 
of Santo Domingo, with special instructions to 
subdue Enrique. His efforts proved as fruitless 
as the preceding attempts, and in 1528 the King 
wrote still more urgently that the campaign must 
be brought to a successful issue. The Bishop- 
President, being in sore perplexity to devise means 
for satisfying the royal commands, showed this 
embarrassing letter to Fray Bartholomew. 

"My lord," said Las Casas, "how many times 
has your lordship and this Audiencia tried to 
subdue this man to the King's service by waging 
war against him." 

"Many times," answered the Bishop, "almost 
every year a force has been organised and so it will 
go on till he dies or submits." "And how often," 
asks Las Casas, "have you tried to win him by 
peaceful means?" "I don't know that there was 
but the one time," answered Fuenleal. Fray Bar- 
tolomew then affirmed that he was confident that he 
could arrange a peace and, the Bishop-president 
having accepted his offer to act as ambassador to 
Enrique, he fulfilled his mission as much to the 
astonishment as to the satisfaction of everybody. 

The Spanish historian Quint ana rejects the ac- 
count of these events which is given by Remesal 
and has ever since been accepted by historians as 
authentic, declaring it to be fabulous, and limiting 

180 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the part Las Casas played in the affair of Enrique 
to a visit he paid him after peace was concluded. 
Remesal bases his narrative on documents which 
he declares he found in the archives of the Audiencia 
of Guatemala, and there seems no sufficient motive 
for doubting the veracity of the evidence. Las 
Casas, in describing what took place in the early 
part of the troubles with Enrique (1520), does not 
say positively that he took part in the first nego- 
tiations for peace, but he does clearly give it to 
be understood that the successful issue of the final 
efforts was owing to his intervention. A detailed 
account of the conclusion of the rebellion would, 
according to the system adopted in writing his 
History, find its rightful place in the fourth book, 
which is missing, though there is little room for 
doubt that it was written and may possibly still 
be discovered. 

Concerning the journey which — according to Rem- 
esal — Las Casas made to Spain in 1530, very lit- 
tle is known, and Quintana is as sceptical about 
this voyage as about the part attributed to him 
by some biographers in Enrique's subjugation, 
though there seems as little reason in this instance 
to doubt the explicit statement of one whose good 
faith is as far above suspicion as his opportunities 
for knowing the facts were exceptional. 

Torquemada represents Fray Juan Zumarraga, 
the first Bishop of Mexico, as visiting Spain in 
1532, and as having previously written asking that 
the colonists should be prohibited from enslaving 
the Indians, and that during that time identical 

Journeys of Las Casas 181 

representations had been made to the government by 
the Bishop of Chiapa, Don Bartolome de Las Casas, 1 
which procured letters patent from the Empress- 
Regent signed in 1530, before the bishop of Mexico 
arrived. 2 The scepticism of Quintana seems hardly 

The occasion of the alleged journey was the recent 
discovery and conquest of Peru by Francisco 
Pizarro and Diego de Almagro. The fate of these 
millions of people, newly subjected to the Castilian 
crown could not have been a matter of indifference 
to Las Casas. They stood far higher in the scale 
of civilisation than the naked islanders, possessing 
as they did, as great an empire as the Mexicans, 
with religion, laws, and literature of a high order of 
development. While the entrance of Las Casas 
into a monastic order was, in one sense, a retirement 
from the world, he had chosen a community whose 
members were as devoted to the defence of the In- 
dians as he himself was, and while he had, when still 
a secular priest, sustained a stout fight, unaided 
save by such friends as chance and his own efforts 
might here and there secure him, he could, after 
his profession, count upon the moral and active 
support of one of the most powerful religious or- 
ganisations of the age. His retirement, therefore, 
proved to be a period of refreshment, during which 
he reinforced his powers for continuing his propa- 
ganda and, while losing nothing of his original 

1 Referred to as Bishop of Chiapa though he was not con- 
secrated bishop until 1544. 

2 Monarquia Indiana, torn, iii., lib. xx., cap. xxx. 

1 82 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

enthusiasm and determination, he returned to the 
scene of his former activity with renewed courage 
and a great religious Order at his back. 

Determined as he was to forestall a repetition in 
Peru of the exterminating cruelties perpetrated 
in the islands, he returned to Court in his Dominican 
habit, where he preached several times with great 
success. The gift of eloquence he had always pos- 
sessed, and his eight years of study and meditation 
had furnished him with new weapons, which he 
wielded with the same fiery zeal that had character- 
ised the first years of his apostolic championship. 
During the six months he remained in Spain, he ob- 
tained a royal cedula to be delivered to Pizarro and 
Almagro, positively prohibiting the enslavement of 
any of the natives of Peru for any reason, or in any 
manner whatsoever, as they were declared to be the 
free vassals of the King, and as much entitled to the 
possession of their liberty and property as were 
the natives of Castile itself. The obnoxious Bishop 
of Burgos had long since fallen into disgrace and 
was dead, so that Las Casas was free to carry on 
his negotiations with the India Council without 
encountering at every step the obstacles and de- 
lays his old enemy had formerly opposed to his 

During his absence in Spain, the first provincial 
chapter of the Dominicans had been held in His- 
paniola, and on his return there he learned that the 
monastery of San Domingo in Mexico had been 
designated as the chief house of the province, with 
Fray Francisco de San Miguel as the first Prior. 

Journeys of Las Casas 183 

Las Casas, in company with other friars embarked 
with the new Prior for Mexico, his own destination 
being Peru, where he had not only to deliver the 
royal cedula he had secured, but also to found some 
convents in those regions. The friars in Mexico did 
not welcome their new Prior as cordially as they 
might have done, but Fray Bartholomew, ever ready 
to exercise his powers of universal peace-maker, 
smoothed the difficulties, after which he left for 
Peru early in 1532, accompanied by Fray Ber- 
nardino de Minaya and Fray Pedro de Angulo. x 
As their port of embarkation was Realejo in Nicara- 
gua, they passed through Santiago de Guatemala 
where they lodged in the abandoned convent of San 
Domingo. As soon as the news of their arrival spread, 
the whole town came eagerly to see them ; the enthusi- 
asm of the inhabitants was somewhat dampened when 
they learned that Las Casas was one of the three, for 
he had earned a terrible fame amongst slave-dealing 
Spaniards and whenever he appeared, was apt to 
produce royal cedulas of embarrassing purport or, at 
least, to denounce and report to Spain the violence 
and cruelties commonly practised on the Indians. 
The friars' stay at Santiago was brief, in spite 
of the urgent entreaties of the priest there, who 
begged them to remain and to reopen the deserted 
monastery, as the field for spiritual labours was a 
broad and uncultivated one. Fray Bartholomew was 
anxious, however, to reach his destination, knowing 
from past experiences how much easier it is to fore- 
stall an evil than to remedy a rooted abuse. He 

1 Also called Vicente de Santa Maria. 

184 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

rightly judged that whatever good was to be accom- 
plished by virtue of the royal cedula he carried, must 
be achieved before the conquerors of Peru had time 
to enslave the Indians and to establish a system 
similar to those that had worked such damage in the 
Islands and in Mexico. They were obliged to 
wait twenty-four days at Realejo until a ship which 
was to carry reinforcements and stores to Pizarro 
and Almagro was ready to sail; meanwhile the 
three monks, under the exterior guise of the gentle 
dove, were obliged to use some of the wisdom of the 
serpent and to carefully conceal the nature of their 
mission, for otherwise the ship-owners, whose chief 
article of commerce was slaves, would never have 
taken them on board. 

Upon their arrival in Peru, Las Casas immediately 
communicated the purport of the cedula to the 
Spanish commanders. Both Almagro and Pizarro 
protested that they would obey the order to the 
letter, though it went sorely against their interests. 
They ordered the royal command to be solemnly 
published with the usual formalities and even added 
other penalties to those prescribed, for any violation 
of its provisions. 

This part of his mission accomplished, it remained 
for Fray Bartholomew and his companions to take 
steps to found religious houses as their superior had 
ordered, but after consultation with the Bishop of 
those parts, Fray Vicente de Valverde, it was 
decided that such foundations would be premature, 
since the country was only half subdued and a 
continuous state of warfare still prevailed. Their 

Journeys of Las Casas 185 

return to Mexico was therefore agreed upon and, 
together with a number of Spaniards who were 
disappointed with their prospects in Peru, the three 
friars left for Panama whence they sailed for 
Realejo, where they arrived early in March of 1532. 

The Bishop of Nicaragua, who at that time was 
Don Diego Alvarez Osorio, had been instructed 
by the Emperor to establish Dominican convents 
in his diocese, and the arrival of the friars afforded 
him the first opportunity that had presented itself 
to obey the royal commands. A convent was 
therefore established with the customary ceremonies 
at Leon, the seat of the Bishop, and was dedicated 
to St. Paul. The friars set themselves to work to 
learn the language of the natives, which was not 
difficult for Pedro de Angulo, since he already knew 
the Mexican tongue, whose similarity rendered in- 
telligible communication with the Indians easy from 
the outset. 

While engaged in the apostolic labour of teaching 
and converting the natives who were eager to 
become Christians, Las Casas received a letter from 
the licentiate Cerrato, who had succeeded the 
Bishop Don Sebastian de Fuenleal as President of 
the Audiencia in Hispaniola on the transference of 
the latter to Mexico, urging him to return forthwith, 
as his presence was necessary for the service of God 
and the Emperor. Money for the expenses of the 
journey accompanied this communication, the nature 
of which left its recipient no choice but to obey, so 
leaving the work of conversions that had so fav- 
ourably begun, to the care of the friars who had 

1 86 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

returned with him from Peru, Fray Bartholomew and 
Fray Pedro de Angulo set out on their long journey 
by way of Honduras, where a ship might be found, 
either at the port of Trujillo or that of Caballos. 

Upon his arrival at Santo Domingo, where he 
was cordially received by the President, Cerrato, 
though his presence was never a source of tranquillity 
to the slave-dealing colonists, Las Casas learned that 
the principal reason for recalling him, was the 
President's desire to establish a surer peace with the 
cacique Enrique; although the latter had made no 
attack on the Spaniards since the agreement of 1529, 
he had not disbanded his followers, but remained 
in an inaccessible mountain fastness, a permanent 
source of unrest to the Spaniards with whom he 
showed no intention of entering into closer relations. 

No mission could have been more to Fray Bar- 
tholomew's liking, for he was ever eager to prove 
the truth of his perpetual thesis that the Indians 
were reasonable, peaceable people who, if treated 
humanely would readily embrace civilisation and 
Christianity. Making his usual condition that no 
force should be used, and accompanied only by his 
faithful companion, Fray Pedro de Angulo, he set 
out for the mountain regions to search for Enrique. 
After several days of fatiguing wanderings he came 
upon the cacique, as well entrenched and with as 
many precautions against a possible attack or 
surprise as though he were engaged in active war- 
fare instead of being at peace since four years. 
For some time, during which the two Dominicans 
remained as guests in the camp, no news of them 

A Peaceful Victory 187 

reached Santo Domingo, so that the President and 
the colonists began to feel great uneasiness for 
their safety. Two months of absolute silence 
elapsed when, to the stupefaction of the colony, Las 
Casas appeared at the entrance of the Audiencia in 
company with the formidable cacique. During four- 
teen years this Indian chieftain had been the terror 
of the Islands, invincible and intractable; the 
triumph of Las Casas was correspondingly great 
when, by the force of his reasoning, he led him 
peacefully into the Spanish capital. Great was 
the ovation that greeted this signal success of the 
unpopular Dominican; the President fulfilled to the 
letter all the promises and assurances which Las 
Casas had given Enrique in the Emperor's name, so 
that from their most obstinate enemy, this cacique 
became the most loyal friend of the Spaniards. 1 
Perhaps no accomplishment in his long life of great 
achievements and great disappointments afforded 
him more unalloyed pleasure than this pacific 

The centre of Fray Bartholomew's action was now 
transferred to Peru, where he was bent upon keep- 
ing a watchful eye on the execution of the royal 
commands for the protection of the Indians, which 
he had been instrumental in procuring. There, it 
seemed still possible to bar out slavery in all its 
forms, so he solicited the Dominican superiors 
in Hispaniola four friars to accompany him and 
found religious houses in Peru. Amongst these 
four was Fray Luis Cancer, whose name was des- 

1 Remesal, lib. ii., cap. xxii. 

1 88 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

tined to be written in the list of the proto-martyrs 
of the Catholic Church in America. 

The President Cerrato, out of gratitude to Las 
Casas, made all the provision for the return journey 
and the five friars set out, probably by the same 
road by which Las Casas had come. In 1534, he 
was in Nicaragua, where he left three of his com- 
panions in the convent of St. Paul at Santiago, 
while he and Fray Luis Cancer and Fray Pedro de 
Angulo continued on their way to Peru. Em- 
barking at the port of Realejo on board a small 
vessel, they were overtaken by a furious storm and 
such continued bad weather that, after many days 
of misery and danger, the ship was obliged to put 
back, and they found themselves again at their port 
of embarkation. 

Their journey to Peru being thus frustrated, the 
friars returned to their convent at Leon where, 
in the early days of 1534, a letter reached Las Casas 
from Don Francisco Marroquin, who had recently 
been appointed Bishop of Guatemala after the 
renunciation of Fray Domingo de Betanzos. His 
diocese was vast but its clergy consisted of himself 
and one priest, and in his letter he entreated Fray 
Bartholomew, since his journey to Peru had been 
abandoned and the diocese of Nicaragua was reason- 
ably provided with priests, to come with his com- 
panions to Guatemala, where there was a great 
field open for apostolic work and no labourers to 
occupy it. Las Casas at once responded to this 
invitation and in Santiago de los Caballeros, the 
trio of Dominicans established their convent, being 

Convent in Guatemala 189 

joined somewhat later by Fray Rodrigo de Ladrada 
who came thither from Peru. 

The first essential was to learn the Guatemalan 
language in order to preach and catechise the 
Indians, and this was the more easily accomplished 
because the Bishop Marroquin was already master 
of it, and undertook their instruction. It was this 
same bishop who published in Mexico in 1556, a 
catechism of Christian Doctrine in the Utlateca 
tongue, commonly called Quiche, a little book 
which has become extremely rare and valuable. 



THE next few years passed in successful mission- 
ary work, without offering any events of 
particular interest in the life of Las Casas. 
During this period he composed his work, De Unico 
modo vocationis, in which he argued that Divine Pro- 
vidence had instituted only one way of converting 
souls, viz., convince the intelligence by reasoning and 
win the heart by gentleness. 1 The ground principle 
of all his teaching was unalterably the same, and he 
eloquently insisted upon his doctrine of peace and kind 
treatment of the Indians, whom he never ceased to 
declare were reasonable people of unspoiled nature, 
who were to be converted by gentleness and justice 
— not by brutality and oppression. His theories 
provoked the same ridicule and opposition in Gua- 
temala as elsewhere, though there was not the same 
bitterness of feeling towards him as existed in the 

The heads of the Spanish colony in Guatemala 
even challenged him to put his theories into practice, 
saying that if he succeeded in subduing any tribes, 
they would admit that they had been unjust, and 

1 Remesal, Historia de Chiapa, lib. iii, cap. ix. 

i go 

Land of War 191 

would abandon their opposition and liberate their 
slaves. This challenge Las Casas at once accepted, 
and selected for the field of his undertaking the 
mountains of the province of Tuzulatlan, inhabited 
by a warlike people, whom the Spaniards had never 
been able to conquer, partly on account of the diffi- 
cult nature of the country, and partly on account of 
the skill and courage of the inhabitants in defending 
themselves. Besides the bare necessaries for his 
support, Las Casas only asked that the conditions 
expressed in the following agreement bearing the 
Governor's signature should be scrupulously ob- 

The act was thus worded : 

By these presents I promise and give my word in the 
name and on behalf of his Majesty and by the royal 
power which I hold that should you, or anyone of your 
religious here present, to wit, Fray Bartholomew de Las 
Casas, Fray Rodrigo de Ladrada, and Fray Pedro de 
Angulo, by your efforts and care, bring any provinces or 
Indians of them, which may be all or partly within my 
jurisdiction which I exercise for his Majesty, to peace- 
ably recognise his Majesty as sovereign and to pay a 
tribute according as their means and property may 
permit either of gold, if it exists in their country, or of 
cotton, maize, or any other product which they possess 
and use for trade amongst themselves, I will, by virtue 
of his Majesty's authority, recognise all such and their 
provinces in his Royal name and present them to his 
Majesty that they may serve him as his vassals; nor 
will I give them to any one, nor shall they be given in 
encomienda to any Spaniard either now or at any time. 
I will command that no Spaniard shall molest them nor 

192 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

enter their country, under grave penalties, for a period 
of five years, that they may not disturb them or hinder 
your preaching and their conversion, unless I should my- 
self go personally when it may seem good to you and 
when you may accompany me; for in this matter I 
desire to fulfil the will of God and of his Majesty and 
to aid you as far as I possibly can to win the natives 
of this province to the knowledge of God and the service 
of his Majesty, etc. 

Provided with this official guarantee, the friars 
began to carefully study the best means for ap- 
proaching the Indians of Tuzulatlan and after 
much reflection, they hit upon a plan as simple as 
it was ingenious. They composed couplets in the 
Quiche tongue, in which were recited the creation 
of the world and the story of Eden; man's fallen 
state and need of redemption; the birth and miracles 
of Our Lord and finally His death upon the Cross. 
These verses were very much after the style of the 
text of the miracle-plays which were so popular 
throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, and as they 
contained the entire epitome of the Christian religion, 
the Indians, by merely listening to the chanting of 
them, would catch the rhythm by ear, and the sense 
of the doctrines might be trusted to penetrate 
their understanding, once their attention had been 

Selecting four Christianised Indians who plied 
their trade as itinerant merchants between the coun- 
try of Zacapula and the Quiche tribes, whom they 
thought qualified to play the part, the friars care- 
fully taught them the verses. The Indian's memory 


ulfil the 
ou as far a 
; Majesty, etc. 

or a period 

n or hinder 

" should my- 

you and 

natter I 




rovided with this official 

ally study the best mc 

Tuzulatlan an 
■ plan as simple 
Paul III. unlets in the 

From an engraving by Vincenzo Crispino 
portrait by Titian. 



he dc 

:es, and as they 
in religion, 


; four ; 
3 itine 
)ula and 
d to 

vhom they 
riars care- 
's memory 

Land of War 193 

is as tenacious as his faculty for learning by rote 
is quick, and as the rhymes were graceful and the 
subject matter both dramatic and mysterious, the 
four traders quickly learned to chant them in 
chorus, accompanied by several Indian musical 
instruments. Some time was necessarily consumed 
in these preparations and it was August of 1537 
before the friars were ready to send forth their 
apostolic troubadours. The news of their conditions 
and agreement with the governor reached Mexico, 
where the Bishop Marroquin had gone for his con- 
secration, and met with approval both from the 
Dominican superiors there and the Governor of the 

In addition to the usual stock of merchandise 
which the traders carried, Las Casas supplied them 
with a number of such Spanish trifles as most 
pleased the Indians and instructed them to go first 
to the house of the principal cacique 1 of the Quiche, 
who was a warlike chief of great authority, and to 
do nothing without first consulting him and receiving 
his approval. To ensure them a good welcome, 
some special presents adapted to his probable fancy 
were to be offered him. 

The traders obeyed their instructions to the letter, 
and after offering their gifts, which delighted the 
cacique, they opened their wares to the public. 
Their Castilian merchandise added immensely to the 
attraction of their market and drew a larger number, 
between buyers and curious people, than usual. 

1 Identified with probability as the chief of Atitlan. Reme- 
sal, however, fails to indicate clearly the exact locality visited. 

194 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

When the day's business was over, they called for 
some musical instruments — the templanaste — and 
taking out their own castanets and timbrels, they 
began to chant the couplets. 

Such music had never before been heard in the 
Quiche land, but if the form attracted their attention, 
the words of the verses made a still deeper impression 
on the listeners, and most of all on the cacique him- 
self. The next day, when the fair was over, he asked 
the traders to sing again the wonderful story and, 
as the news of the previous day's performance had 
spread amongst the people, a still larger crowd had 
assembled to listen. When the singing had finished, 
the cacique asked the traders for explanations 
concerning the sense of their song but they, acting 
on Las Casas's instructions, replied that they only 
knew what they sang and to learn more he would 
have to send for certain friars who would be very 
glad to come and tell him everything concerning the 
mysteries of the verses. This gave the traders an 
opportunity to describe the friars who, they said, 
wore white robes covered with black mantles and 
had their hair cut in the form of a crown around the 
head; they told of the extreme frugality of their 
lives, their severe penances, and that their only 
occupation was to instruct people, for they despised 
gold and were indifferent to personal possessions. 
The cacique marvelled not a little to hear of this 
new variety of Spaniard, so contrary in habits and 
manners to the others, of whom his knowledge 
had led him to form the poorest opinion. He con- 
ceived an earnest wish to see these strangers and 

Land of War 195 

arranged with the traders that his brother, a young 
man of twenty-two, should return with them to 
Santiago and see for himself if what they said was 
true. He charged his brother to observe carefully 
and secretly the ways of the friars and to learn all 
he could about them and meanwhile, in return for 
the gifts of Las Casas, he sent him a number of the 
most valuable things his country produced. 

The anxiety of the friars during all this time as 
to the result of their first effort must have been keen, 
and hence the satisfaction with which they welcomed 
the return of the traders and their distinguished 
companion amounted to jubilation; still more was 
the significance of the present, though its actual 
value or usefulness to the recipients was probably 
small, but most important of all was the invita- 
tion from the cacique to visit his country. 

While the young chieftain was busy observing 
the life of the convent and satisfying himself that 
the descriptions given by the traders were accu- 
rate, the friars had chosen Fray Luis Cancer 1 as 
their first envoy to his brother. Provided with more 
gifts for the cacique, he set out, the only Christian 
amidst the Indians who followed in the train of 
the Quiche chief, to penetrate into the unknown 
country, whose turbulent reputation had earned it 

1 Luis Cancer de Barbastro, a native of Saragossa. This 
noble and gifted man gave his life to the Church, falling a 
martyr under the blows of the Indians of Florida who blindly 
murdered their best friend. An affecting account of his death 
may be read in Woodbury Lowery's Spanish Settlements. 
(Davila Padilla, Historia de la Fundacion, lib. i., cap. lvii. ; Reme- 
sal, Hist, de Chiapa, lib. viii., cap. xvi.) 

196 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the sombre name amongst the Spaniards of Tierra 
de Guerra — land of war, — for it was never at peace. 

No sooner had they crossed the Quiche frontier, 
than everywhere the people came out to see the 
wonderful guest, making his arrival a veritable 
festival; arches were erected for him to pass under, 
the very roads were swept before his footsteps, 
and his entrance into the cacique's own town was a 
triumph. A church was at once built for him, and 
at the celebration of the first mass, the cacique 
assisted in absorbed wonder, while the dignity and 
solemnity of the ceremonies and the beauty of 
the sacerdotal vestments impressed him by their 
favourable contrast to the repugnant rites and 
filthy robes of the priests of his own religion. Fray 
Luis spoke the Quiche language with fluency, and 
during several days he gave instructions and explana- 
tions, which resulted in the cacique's conversion; 
that of the others followed as a matter of course. 
The friar had brought with him the contract signed by 
the Governor, and he explained its conditions and 
importance very fully; this document was a more 
valuable instrument of conversion than would have 
been an authentic manuscript epistle of St. Paul. 
The cacique's conversion was complete, and with 
his own hands he overthrew the national idols, and 
began, with all the zeal of a convert, to preach Chris- 
tian doctrine to his people. The propaganda so 
actively undertaken by this unexpected assistant left 
Fray Luis free to visit some neighbouring regions, 
in all of which he was hospitably received and 
concerning whose inhabitants he made a most 

Land of War 197 

encouraging report on his return to Santiago, where, 
as may be imagined, his companions received him 
with the greatest joy. 

As the rainy season was over at the end of October, 
the moment for visiting Tuzulatlan was favourable, 
and Las Casas determined to go himself and visit 
the newly converted cacique. It was December 
when he and Fray Pedro de Angulo arrived in the 
Quiche country, where the cacique, who since his 
baptism was known as Don Juan, showed them the 
same hospitality as he had to Fray Luis. While 
some of the Indians received them as messengers 
bringing glad tidings, there were others who cast 
epicurean glances upon them and decided that 
they would taste well served with a sauce of 
chili, i 

The introduction of the new religion had not been 
effected without opposition and the Indians of Coban 
had even burned the first church. Another was 
soon built, however, in which the two friars said 
mass daily, preaching afterwards in the open air 
to immense assemblies of people. 

Don Juan was at first unwilling that the friars 
should penetrate farther into the country, fearing 
that some of the people, who adhered to the old 
customs and were hostile to the Spaniards might 
attack them, but he finally withdrew his objections 
and formed a guard of his bravest warriors, to whom 
he confided the safety of his guests. Thus escorted, 
they traversed all the provinces of Tuzulatlan 
and Coban where, contrary to the cacique's appre- 

1 Remesal, Hist, de Chiapa, lib. iii., cap. xvi. 

198 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

hensions, they encountered only the most friendly 

At this juncture a Bull of Paul III. (Farnese) which 
was designed to put an end to further disputes con- 
cerning the status of the Indians, by defining their 
rights once for all, arrived in America. 1 

This Bull was issued in reply to letters sent to the 
Pope by the Bishop of Tlascala, begging his Holiness 
to decide the vexed question of the status of the In- 
dians, and was based on the Scriptural text Euntes 
docete omnes gentes. The Pope declared the Indians 
to be rational beings, possessed of liberty and free- 
will and therefore susceptible to receive the gospel, 
which must be preached to them in obedience to the 
divine commands. He condemned in severe terms 
those who enslaved the Indians and pretended to 
deny their capacity to become Christians. A pon- 
tifical brief was at the same time addressed to the 
Cardinal-Archbishop of Toledo, confirming the sense 
of the Bull and commending the Emperor's condem- 
nation of slavery in his American possessions. 

The satisfaction of Las Casas with this authorita- 
tive pronouncement from the supreme head of 
Christendom may be easily imagined, for it reads 
not unlike some of his own compositions. He 
translated the Latin text into Spanish and supplied 
copies to all the governors and chief persons in those 
colonies, so that the decision and commands of the 
Pontiff might be perfectly understood by every one. 

To one of his projects for civilising and convert- 
ing the Indians more rapidly, the cacique was very 

1 See text of this Bull in Appendix II . 

Las Casas at Rabinal 199 

reluctant to agree; this was that they should quit 
their semi-nomadic life and their custom of living 
in small scattered groups throughout the country, 
and come together in towns and villages. They 
were so much attached to the independence and 
freedom of their mountains, that it was easier for 
the natives to renounce their religion, to which in- 
deed they seemed to have little attachment, than to 
abandon the ancient customs of their race. Their 
resistance to this innovation risked losing all that 
had been accomplished, for they were prepared 
rather to fight than to yield on this point. By his 
quiet persistence, however, Las Casas succeeded in 
starting a village of one hundred houses at a place 
called Rabinal, whose familiar name he wisely re- 
frained from changing, and little by little, even the 
natives of Coban, who were the least amenable, were 
attracted by the novelty, and came to inspect the new 
system, with which those who had adopted it were de- 
lighted, as they could thus hear mass every day and 
enjoy the discourses and conversation of the friars, of 
which they seem never to have tired. Fray Luis 
now joined Las Casas at Rabinal, from whence he 
repeated his former visits to various places through- 
out the neighbouring country. The friars were 
obliged to learn the language or dialect of Coban in 
order to enter into relations with its people, the most 
savage of all the tribes in those parts. 

The Bishop Marroquin had meanwhile returned 
from Mexico and Pedro de Alvarado, the captain 
who distinguished himself during the conquest of 
Mexico b}^ his rashness and cruelties, was now 

2oo Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the lieutenant of the Emperor in Guatemala, and 
to these authorities Las Casas wished to render 
an account of what had been accomplished. To 
give a more striking proof of the condition of 
things in Tuzulatlan, he wished very much to 
have Don Juan accompany him, remembering, 
no doubt, the impression the appearance of the 
cacique Enrique had produced in Santo Domingo. 
The project suited the cacique perfectly, and he 
began to make arrangements for his journey, plan- 
ning to go in considerable pomp with a numerous 
following of warriors. To this Las Casas objected, 
foreseeing the difficulty he would have in keeping 
such a large number from too familiar contact with 
Spaniards, from which quarrels and troubles would 
inevitably ensue. He succeeded in convincing Don 
Juan that such a display was unnecessary, and sent 
notice of the approaching visit to Guatemala, where 
Father Ladrada built more rooms onto the convent 
for the reception of the guests and laid in an extra 
supply of provisions to regale them. 

The Bishop, without waiting for a visit from the 
cacique upon his arrival, went at once to the con- 
vent to see him and, as he spoke the Guatemalan 
tongue, they talked together, not only on general 
subjects but also on matters of faith, the Bishop 
marvelling greatly at the degree of Don Juan's 
instruction and the maturity and gravity of his 
judgment. Indeed, so impressed was he by the ex- 
ceptional dignity of the cacique that he begged the 
Adelantado to go and see him. Pedro de Alvarado 
had had much experience of Indians and was one of 

Visit of Don Juan 201 

the cruellest of Spanish commanders in America, 
holding the life of an Indian in no more consideration 
than that of a dog, yet even he was so favourably 
attracted by Don Juan's appearance and manners 
that, wishing in some way to honour him and having 
nothing at hand to give him, he took off his own red 
velvet hat and placed it on the cacique's head. His 
followers murmured somewhat at this demonstration, 
which they considered excessive, but Don Juan was 
radiant in his magnificent headgear. 

To celebrate Don Juan's visit, an inspection of the 
town was planned, so that he might see how the 
Spaniards lived; the Bishop and the Aldelantado 
sent word beforehand to all the merchants to dress 
their shops with the best things they had, stuffs, 
jewelry, plate, etc., and if the cacique should show 
a fancy for anything, it should immediately be 
given to him and the account sent to the Bishop. 
This was doing things in a really royal fashion, and 
one regrets to have to relate that the cacique walked 
with great gravity and dignity — as much as though 
he had been born in Burgos, says Remesal — amidst 
the brave display, without manifesting any surprise 
or wish to possess anything he saw, refusing also 
to accept the different articles which were offered to 
him. The only object about which he seems to 
have asked a question was a statue of the Blessed 
Virgin, and when he heard the Bishop repeat the 
story of the Mother of Christ, just as the friars had 
first sung it in his mountain home, he knelt down 
to receive the image from his hands, with great 
veneration, and afterwards delivered it to one of 

202 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

his attendants, cautioning him to carry it with the 
greatest care and reverence. 

The visit fortunately passed off without any 
friction between the Spaniards and the followers 
of Don Juan, and at its close, Las Casas and Fray 
Rodrigo de Ladrada accompanied the cacique back 
to his country, intending to penetrate still farther 
into the interior of Coban where the natives were but 
little known to white men. Two caciques, whose 
names as Christians were Don Miguel and Don Pedro, 
and whose tribes were near to Rabinal, rendered much 
help in carrying out this plan, and so well did every- 
thing promise, that the two friars would have re- 
mained in the countries of Tuzulatlan and Coban to 
prosecute their missionary labours, but for a sum- 
mons from their companions in Guatemala recalling 
them thither in May of 1538. 

The Bishop Marroquin, who had prompted the 
summons, assembled the community and explained 
that the urgent need of more clergy in his diocese 
had decided him to send some of them to Spain to 
induce other friars of their own and the Franciscan 
Order to come to his assistance. The choice of the 
envoy for this mission not unnaturally fell upon Las 
Casas, for he had often made the journey, was well 
acquainted in Spain, where he had many and power- 
ful friends, and was well versed in the ways of the 
court. Fray Rodrigo went as his companion, and 
before quitting Guatemala, he went to take leave 
of the cacique Don Juan, who was much dejected 
at the departure of his friends. 

The two travellers repaired first to Mexico, where 

Las Casas in Spain 203 

a chapter of the Dominican Order was held on Au- 
gust 24, 1539, in which Pedro de Angulo was named 
Prior of the convent in Guatemala, and Fray Luis 
Cancer was designated to accompany Las Casas and 
Ladrada to Spain. During his stay in Mexico, 
Las Casas saw the Viceroy, Don Antonio de Mendoza, 
who was inclined to share the view that humane 
treatment of the natives promised better results 
than violence, and willingly combined with him for 
several peaceful missions to distant provinces in the 
north-west of Mexico. 

Charles V. was absent from Madrid when Las Casas 
and his companions arrived but the former was wel- 
comed by many old friends and set about his business 
with the activity and perspicacity which marked his 
treatment of affairs. Since the death of the Bishop 
of Burgos, another and a better spirit breathed in 
the Council, and there was a more sincere and con- 
sistent effort to give full effect to the royal decrees 
in favour of the Indians. To this, the Bull of Paul 
III. had doubtless in no small measure contributed, 
for it was obviously impossible after such an authori- 
tative pronouncement to continue along the old 
lines, treating the natives like chattels and affecting 
to deny them souls. The Council accorded a number 
of beneficial provisions in response to Las Casas's 
representations. The pact entered into with the 
Governor, which guaranteed the independence of 
the cacique of Tuzulatlan and his people, was ratified 
by the Council, and letters were written in the King's 
name to several of the converted caciques; one of 
these new provisions ordered that the Indians should 

o4 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

be taught music and that musical instruments 
should be furnished them from Spain. Fray Barthol- 
omew was equally successful in finding a number 
of friars for the diocese of Guatemala, and on Janu- 
ary 21, 1 541, Fray Luis Cancer sailed with a number 
of Franciscans on the return journey. Las Casas 
and the Dominicans remained behind by command 
of Cardinal Loaysa, who intimated that the former's 
presence would be necessary later, for important 
matters, of which he would learn in due time. Before 
the departure of the Franciscans, the royal orders 
concerning the welfare of the Indians were proclaimed 
from the steps of the Cathedral of Seville in the 
presence of a large concourse of people. 

Cardinal Loaysa, who occupied the metropoli- 
tan see of Seville, contemplated making important 
changes in the code of laws that governed the 
Indies, and his desire to consult Las Casas before 
framing his new system rendered it necessary that 
the latter should remain in Spain. In the following 
year, 1542, the Nuevas Leyes, or New Laws, as they 
were termed, were drawn up, and although there is 
no direct evidence to prove that they were drafted 
by Las Casas, there is little doubt that many of their 
most salutary articles were due to his influence and 
suggestions. The usual method of assembling coun- 
cils composed of theologians, canonists, lawyers, and 
men who had had much experience in the colonies, 
was likewise followed at this time, and in their 
meetings the several questions concerning the system 
of government best adapted to the Indians, the most 
promising means for converting and civilizing them, 

The New Laws 205 

and the measures required to correct and eliminate 
the abuses under which they suffered, were exhaus- 
tively discussed. The verbal debates were supple- 
mented by the presentation of facts and arguments 
in support of different theories, drawn up in writing. 
In a council held by the Emperor's command at 
Valladolid in 1542, Las Casas presented one such 
lengthy memorial, in which he enumerated the 
different remedies which he maintained were indis- 
pensable if his Majesty would provide for the relief 
of his Indian vassals. The number of the remedies 
proposed in this document is given by Las Casas 
himself as sixteen, but of these only the eighth is 
known to be in existence. Probably it contained 
the substance of his thesis, which, like most pa- 
pers of the time, must have been very wordy and 
discursive. The eighth remedy was afterwards 
published at Seville in 1552 with twenty reasons 
in support of it. 

Las Casas' s habitual activity was in no way dimin- 
ished, and he exercised as great energy in winning ad- 
herents to his cause as he did foresight in combating 
opposition to it. Copies of his memorial were dis- 
tributed to all the important men whose opinions 
might influence the tenor of the new laws and the 
spirit of their application, including the members of 
the council in Valladolid, especially Cardinal Loaysa, 
who was President of the India Council, Don 
Ramirez de Fuenleal, who had been transferred from 
the presidency of the audiencia of Mexico to the 
bishopric of Cuenca, Don Juan de Zufiiga, Grand 
Commander of Castile, the Secretary, Francisco de 

2o6 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

los Cobos, and all the others who had been, appointed 
to act as judges in this affair. These men held 
meetings in the house of Pedro Gonzalez de Leon, 
and the outcome of their deliberations was the for- 
mation of the famous code of Nuevas Leyes. 

Several of the articles of this code might have 
been drafted word for word by Las Casas himself, 
so entirely do they bear the impress of his opinions : 

Item. We ordain and command that from now and 
henceforth no Indian may be enslaved because he has 
fought, nor for any other reason, whether because of 
rebellion, or for purposes of ransom, nor in any other 
way, and we desire that they shall be treated as our 
vassals of the Crown of Castile, for such they are. 

No one may press the Indians into service by way of 
naboria or tapia * nor in any other manner against their 
will. And since we have ordered that from henceforth 
the Indians shall not be made slaves, we likewise ordain 
and command that in the case of such as have been here- 
tofore enslaved contrary to right and justice, the Audien- 
cias shall summon the parties, and without process of 
law, but promptly and briefly upon the truth being 
known, shall liberate them. Nor may the Indians be 
unjustly enslaved in default of persons to solicit the 
aforesaid [procedure] ; we command that the Audiencia 
shall appoint persons who may pursue this cause for the 
Indians and that such persons shall be conscientious 
and diligent men and shall be paid out of the fines of 
the Exchequer. 

1 An obsolete legal phrase difficult to translate ; naboria refers 
to domesticated Indians who were bound to their employer's 
service, but were not slaves. This article prohibits the forcing, 
by fraudulent means, of free Indians into such bondage. 

The New Laws 207 

Neither the spirit nor the provisions of these laws 
differ from those of the various ordinances and 
cedulas which the Spanish sovereigns from the reign 
of Isabella the Catholic had from time to time pro- 
mulgated. So true is the saying of Dr. Johnson that 
wisdom may make laws but it requires virtue to 
execute them. The Spanish sovereigns were more 
humane than their subjects, but the latter were 
ready with expedients for evading laws whose 
execution would have hindered their avaricious 
undertakings in the distant colonies, while venal 
officials lent their connivance to these violations, 
instead of administering the laws in the spirit in 
which their authors had conceived them. The stat- 
ute books of the worst despotisms are adorned with 
the wisest and most liberal ordinances. From the 
trades of the Ottoman Sultans and ukases of the 
Russian Tsars, those empires might be easily shown 
to possess ideal systems of government, under 
whose enlightened and beneficent sway happy and 
prosperous peoples have enjoyed the delights of 
religious and political liberty. 

The most important article of the New Laws con- 
cerning the encomienda system provided as follows : 

Futhermore we ordain and command that from now 
and henceforth no Viceroy, Governor, Audiencia, dis- 
coverer, or any other persons whatsoever shall allot 
Indians in encomienda, neither by new provision or 
resignation, donation, sale, nor in any other form or 
manner; neither by vacancies, nor inheritance, but, that 
on the death of any person holding the said Indians, 
they shall revert to our royal Crown. Let the Audiencias 

2o8 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

take means to be immediately and particularly informed 
concerning the deceased person, his rank, merits, ser- 
vices, and his treatment of his Indians and whether 
there is a widow or children ; they shall send us a report 
on the condition of the Indians and of the property, that 
we may order what may be best for our service and may 
make such provision as may seem good to us for the 
widow and children of the deceased. Should the Au- 
diencia meanwhile perceive a need to provide for such 
widow and children, they may do this out of the tribute 
paid by the said Indians, giving them a moderate amount, 
for these Indians are under our Crown, as stated. 

This article provided for the gradual and total 
extinction of slavery, with due regard to the interests 
of the colonists, and though it did not meet the wishes 
of Las Casas for the immediate and absolute correc- 
tion of the prevailing abuses, its strict application 
promised to produce more slowly, the results which 
he sought. 

On the 20th of November, 1542, Charles V. 
signed the Nuevas Leyes of Valladolid, in the city 
of Barcelona, and their publication immediately 

Las Casas was in Valencia at this time and it was 
there that he finished the best known of all his 
writings, which was first printed in 1552 under the 
title Brevissima Relacion de la Destruycion de la In- 
dias f and bore a dedication to Philip II. * This 
little book, as the reader may see from the trans- 
lation of it given at the close of this volume, is 
a veritable catalogue of horrors. Man's invention 

* See Appendix I. 

The New Laws 209 

has its limits, and the ways of torturing the 
human body are numbered, hence, as the descrip- 
tions of the various scenes of brutality repeat 
themselves over and over in the same language, 
they end by becoming wearisome. The book 
was speedily translated into various European lan- 
guages and its dissemination aroused a tempest 
of indignation against the Spanish colonial system 
in America. Its contents were made to serve in 
the religious and political controversies of the six- 
teenth and seventeenth centuries and Las Casas 
was cited as a witness both against his Church and 
his country. 

There is no doubt that every incident that Las 
Casas relates as coming within his own knowledge 
and observation is true, though Prescott describes 
"the good Bishop's arithmetic as coming from the 
heart than from the head" and historians generally 
have been inclined to doubt his figures. His de- 
scription of the mild and friendly character of the 
natives of the islands was doubtless exact, but when 
he extends it to include the fierce and warlike tribes 
of the mainland, his generalisations are seen to be 
misleading. None of the peoples of Anahuac could 
be truthfully described as "gentle lambs" or as 
"humble, submissive, and docile, knowing no evil 
and neither possessing nor understanding the use of 
weapons." Slavery was everywhere established, 
with its attendant abuses and evils, and it was 
slavery that Las Casas combated. It must be 
borne in mind that Las Casas was a man in whom 
humanitarianism overshadowed every other senti- 


2io Bartholomew de Las Casas 

ment, that he was of an ardent, impressionable, and 
imaginative temperament, with sensibilities of the 
most delicate sort; moreover he was an apostle, the 
defender of an oppressed people, whom he had 
taken under his protection and whose cause it was 
the mission of his life to sustain and defend. The 
violation of divine and human justice had been 
erected into a system by the conquerors and dis- 
coverers and nothing, in his eyes, could palliate the 
evils which that system fostered, and by which the 
colonists prospered, while the native races were 
dwindling to extinction. Beyond these primary 
facts, he refused to see; of them, he had seen more 
than enough to inflame his indignation and start him 
upon the crusade for which his iron constitution, 
his superior intellectual powers, and his resistless 
eloquence were alone adequate. He was frequently 
betrayed into invective, and his denunciations are 
as fierce as language could make them, while the 
energetic terms in which he depicts, in all their bald 
horror, the revolting inhumanity of his countrymen 
provoke a shudder. The Brevissima Relacion is 
not literature for sensitive readers. 



COPIES of the New Laws, accompanied by 
royal letters of instruction, were sent, not 
only to the viceroys, governors, and Audien- 
cias in America, but also to the priors of the different 
convents, so that the knowledge of their provisions 
might be as widely diffused as possible and the vigi- 
lance of the friars excited to see that they were obeyed 
both in the letter and the spirit. Las Casas went 
from Valencia to Barcelona to thank the Emperor, 
and while there, the royal secretary, Francisco de los 
Cobos, waited on him one Sunday afternoon, bearing 
his appointment by the Emperor to the newly 
erected bishopric of Cuzco, which, for extent of 
territory, number of inhabitants, and vast resources, 
was the richest in the New World. Such a recogni- 
tion from the sovereign could not be otherwise than 
welcome to Las Casas, who was perhaps the most 
abused man of his time both in America and Spain, 
but his determination not to accept the dignity was 
positive, though veiled at the outset under the plea 
that, being a Dominican and bound by the rule of 
obedience, he could not receive the royal nomina- 
tion without the previous consent of his superiors. 


2i2 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Regard for consistency was, however, the principal 
motive of his refusal, for he had protested before the 
Emperor and all men, in 15 19, that his labours in 
favour of the Indians were actuated solely by the 
desire to advance God's service by effecting their 
conversion: for all his hardships and sufferings, he 
neither expected nor desired any recompense, and 
he formally renounced in anticipation all and any 
honours or rewards the Emperor might think of 
offering him. 1 His resolution to abide by that 
declaration being unalterable, he left Barcelona to 
escape possible pressure, and the desirable bishopric 
passed to another Dominican, Fray Juan Solano. 

The designation of Las Casas for the bishopric 
was made by Cardinal Loaysa and the other mem- 
bers of the India Council and, nothing daunted by 
his refusal, they insisted that some one of the newly 
founded bishoprics in America should be governed 
by the man who, of all others, possessed the highest 
qualifications, the most thorough knowledge of 
those countries, and the sincerest interest in apostolic 
work amongst the natives. The first bishop of the 
diocese of Chiapa having just died, he was desig- 
nated for the vacancy, and this time he was con- 
strained by the arguments of persons of influence, 
notably the director of the College of San Gregorio 
in Valladolid, to put aside his scruples and to 
accept a position in which he could most benefit 
his beloved Indians. 

That the diocese of Chiapa was the poorest in the 

» In the course of his debate with the Bishop of Darien as 
described in Chapter X. 

His Consecration 213 

New World, and so barren of revenues that a subsidy 
was furnished by the Emperor to enable the Bishop 
to live at all, contributed perhaps as much as any- 
thing to reconcile Las Casas to his new dignity. 1 
He repaired to Toledo and appeared before the chap- 
ter of his Order which was being held there, to ask 
that some monks should be furnished him for his 
new diocese. 

Las Casas was preconised in Rome on the feast of 
Pentecost, 1542, after which a whole year elapsed 
before the necessary bulls reached Spain and the 
friars who were to accompany him were chosen. 
After arranging for the reunion of these friars, he 
set out for Seville, where, on the 30th of March, 
1544, he was consecrated bishop in the chapel of 
the Dominican monastery of St. Paul by Bishop 
Loaysa, nephew of the cardinal of the same name, 
assisted by the Bishops of Cordoba and Trujillo in 

1 "The Prince. Know ye our officials of India House, who 
reside in the City of Seville, that the Emperor King my sovereign, 
because of the good reports he received of the character, life, 
and habits of the Rev. Father Bartholomew de Las Casas, of the 
Dominican Order, has presented him to His Holiness as bishop 
of the City of Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa, in place of 
the Rev. Juan de Arteaga now deceased, who was bishop of that 
diocese; and as it is necessary that he should soon depart for 
that country, we have told him to go without awaiting his bulls. 
And that he may have means to support himself, I have, in an- 
other document, ordered our officials in New Spain, that should 
a fourth part of the tithes of the said bishopric not amount to 
five hundred thousand 'maravedis' they shall pay him out of 
our purse whatever is wanting to make up that sum. As you 
will see; and as he will require money for his present expenses 
it is my wish that you order two hundred and fifty ducats to be 
given him from India House on account of what he is entitled 
to by virtue of it, and another two hundred from the province of 

2i4 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Honduras. On the 21st of March, the newly con- 
secrated Bishop wrote the following letter to the 
India Council: 

Very high and potent lords: after we left the 
Court on Tuesday the 4th of this month, we arrived 
within sixteen days at this city, in spite of the heavy roads 
and great rains we encountered. Upon our arrival 
here we found the fleet ready to sail down the river, but 
on account of the calm weather and want of wind, no 
vessel has been able to sail until to-day, Friday. The ship 
on which the friars were to sail only got as far as San 
Domingo and there, the cedulas did not make it perfectly 
clear that the officials should pay their passage to Puerto 
de Caballos ; because the cedulas say that from there they 
are to be paid to Honduras, because they were supposed to 
go in the vessel that would disembark them at the said 
Puerto de Caballos. The cedulas that I obtained, were 
made out conditionally should the friars think it better 
to go to Quacaqualco; so that should they not think 

Honduras. Therefore I command you to give and pay to the 
said Rev. Father Bartholomew de Las Casas the said two hundred 
and fifty ducats which is ninety -three thousand seven hundred 
and fifty maravedis, of the one thousand six hundred ducats 
that I ordered you to reserve for the journeys of bishops; and 
you will enter that on the back of the said document above 
mentioned, and, as I said, the said two hundred and fifty ducats 
on account and by virtue of that cedula, so that our officials in 
New Spain shall deduct this and the other two hundred which 
we order to be paid in Honduras. You will obtain his receipt 
(or his authorised representative's), with which and with the 
copy of the said document, you will order that the said two 
hundred and fifty ducats are to be received or paid on account — 
Dated in the city of Valladolid, thirteenth day of February 1544, 
I the Prince. By command of His Highness, Juan de Samano." 
Signed by the bishop of Cuenca, Gre. Velasquez, Gregorio Lopez 
y Salmeron. 

His Consecration 215 

it better to go to Quacaqualco they would for that 
reason be unable to leave Hispaniola. Therefore I beg 
Your Highness 1 to be gracious enough to order a cedula 
to be supplied them, ordering the officials in Hispaniola 
to pay the passage from there to Puerto de Caballos, 
in case they do not have to disembark at Quacaqualco — 
as I believe they will not — and may it arrive soon, as this 
fleet is on the point of sailing. Referring to this, the 
officials of India House have no funds from which 
to give me the two hundred and fifty ducats Your 
Highness had the goodness to order to be given to 
start me off, because — leaving apart what was sent them 
to keep for the bishops, etc., — no other monies from His 
Majesty have been sent them: so here I am — with the 
past expenses for works, and without a maravedi for my 
provisions, on which account I have neither done nor 
bought anything. I do not even know in which vessel 
I am sailing because there is nothing that is not muddled, 
but as I have no money, I am less worried than I should 
be about the vessel in which I am to sail. I beseech 
Your Highness, if it be your pleasure that I should go 
with this fleet and take those friars, to do me the favour 
'to send me a cedula ordering that they give me the two 
hundred and fifty ducats out of the funds of the dead. 
And it must come soon, and with all haste if I am to go 
now, as however quickly it may arrive, it will not come in 
time for me to complete my preparations, seeing the hurry 
the fleet is in and the little I have with which to provide 
things: for I have to provide for the needs of the friars. 
I received one letter from the Court, as our bulls came 
two days after our departure. It seems Our Lord will 

1 Although this letter is addressed to the India Council, it 
was evidently intended for Prince Philip, as Las Casas at this 
point changes from the plural to the singular number and ad- 
dress " Your Highness." 

216 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

not pay me in this world for the worries I go through for 
His sake. Certainly it were a great glory for me that 
Your Highness should honour and favour me on my 
consecration, thus completing the favours Your Highness 
has shown me. I give thanks to God that He has so 
favoured me and undoubtedly I hope to accomplish 
more in those distant parts, than in the ecclesiastical 
courts of this country. Up to now they [the bulls] have 
not arrived, nor do I know who will bring them nor 
when they will come. When they arrive I shall endeavour 
— should there be time — to obtain the favour from his 
excellency the Cardinal of ordering me to be consecrated 
by anybody who can perform the ceremony, although I 
have not yet kissed the hands of his excellency, he having 
been very busy these past two days since his arrival. 
I was likewise unable to pass through Toledo — being 
obliged to await my commissions which were necessary 
for my speaking to the Provincial of the Franciscans 
about the twelve monks, of whom only two are here, who 
will sail with this fleet. I beseech your Highness to order 
a letter to be written to him [the Provincial] that he 
may send the others immediately if they are to go in this 
ship, and they will afterwards be given provisions if they 
arrive in time ; and should they not, I will leave the docu- 
ments concerning them in the charge of the Superior 
of the Franciscan Order. May Our Lord bless and give 
you all prosperity in your high station and in His service 
as Your Highness deserves and we, your most humble 
servants, desire. Amen. From Seville 21st of March 
1544 Your Highness's servant who kisses your Royal 
hands — 

Fray Bartholomew de las Casas, 

Bishop elect. 

Another letter dated ten days later and addressed 

His Consecration 217 

in the same manner to Prince Philip through the 
India Council describes the episcopal consecration 
of Las Casas and invites the Prince's attention to 
certain matters in the following terms : 

Very high and potent Lords: To-day, Passion Sun- 
day our Lord graciously bestowed on me the glory of 
consecration — very different from the ignominies He 
suffered that day, according to the representations of 
His church. I do not know why His Majesty ordered 
it to be so done, as it could not be done before — nor 
was there time to expect it could be done afterwards — 
on account of the haste of the fleet to sail : but however 
that may be, to him be all glory and thanks, for he de- 
serves them. The Cardinal has shown me great kindness 
in favouring me wherever possible. It was his nephew 
or relative, the Bishop Loaysa, who consecrated me, 
assisted by the Bishop of Honduras and the Bishop 
Torres. The Bishop of Honduras was about setting 
out, but at my request he waited to assist at my con- 
secration, and in great poverty he has delayed his journey 
seven or eight days, the expenses of which I would 
have willingly paid if I had had the wherewithal. I 
humbly beg Your Highness to recompense him for what 
I owe him: I shall esteem it a favour to myself. Al- 
though no occasion should offer, I was thinking to ask 
Your Highness to graciously grant him some relief, so 
that that church, destitute of pastor and spiritual min- 
istrations, may not suffer such abandonment and pov- 
erty, for I greatly doubt that he would solicit anything. 
I humbly and affectionately beseech Your Highness that 
this be one of the first things attended to, as it is most 
important. Whatever way that Your Highness may 
adopt to supply that need, will be acceptable to him. One 
day shortly after I arrived at this city, I wrote begging 

218 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Your Highness to do me the favour to order the officials 
of this house [India House] to pay me the two hundred 
and fifty ducats which His Majesty granted me from the 
funds of the dead, because there are no others, and 
therefore I have found myself in want. Knowing this, 
the officials of this house did me a great service in getting 
a certain banker to lend it me, against my promise to 
repay within thirty days. I beseech Your Highness to 
do me the favour of ordering a cedula covering it to be 
issued, because the fleet is in a great hurry to sail and 
were the cedula delayed I would suffer great want and 
much annoyance, for if I could not repay what the credi- 
tor has lent me, it would be a very bad thing for him. I 
likewise beseech Your Highness to order the necessary 
cedulas for the friars to be sent, that the officials of 
Hispaniola may pay their passage to Puerto de Caballos, 
for I have one only to Quacaqualco, where we shall 
not be able to land on account of the bad harbour. The 
other principal cedula authorises the officials of India 
House to pay the passage to Puerto de Caballos, but 
this cannot be done for lack of ships, so the friars first 
disembarked at the port of San Domingo in Hispaniola 
and from there, they have to reembark to Puerto de 
Caballos. The officials of San Domingo have no authority 
for this, and if the friars had to remain there long they 
would suffer great danger. 

Everyone here is quite well and receiving shelter and 
charity from the monasteries. The Provincial and the 
Prior of this convent of San Pablo and the others have 
well carried out Your Highness' s orders in this respect. 
All kiss the hands of Your Highness and pray God to 
prolong the life and Royal state of Your Highness, espe- 
cially Fray Rodrigo — our companion. I beseech Your 
Highness, for the service of God, to provide that the 
relief and freedom which His Majesty granted to the 

His Departure 219 

Indians in the island of Cuba may be made effective, 
before those who hold them have finished destroying 
and killing them, for they are and have been most 
shamefully oppressed, afflicted, and reduced in number 
in all those parts of the Indies. 

Likewise, that, since the Archdeacon Alvaro de Cas- 
tro, whom Your Highness charged with the care of 
the Indians in Hispaniola, is dead, Your Highness 
will order that duty assigned to some devout friar or 
ecclesiastic so that those who survive, few as they are, 
may not be deprived of the enjoyment of the relief 
and favour His Majesty granted them. It seems to me 
it would be well, should Your Highness so please, to 
bestow it on Canon Albaro de Leon who is a Canon of La 
Vega, or on Gregorio de Viguera, Dean of the same 
church of La Vega. 

May the Lord increase and prosper the fortunate 
life and very high estate of Your Highness in His holy 
service, Amen. Seville 31st March 1544 Your servant 
who kisses your Royal hands — 

Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, 


In spite of all the anti-slavery legislation enacted, 
there were actually at that time a number of 
Indians held as slaves in Seville itself, and 
before starting for his distant diocese, Las Casas 
undertook as his first duty to secure their liberation. 
His action aroused much of the ancient enmity 
against him, but to that he was indifferent : the text 
of the New Laws was explicit, leaving no opening for 
false construction. Success crowned his efforts and 
enabled him to leave, fully satisfied, for San Lucar 
de Barrameda where his friars were waiting for him 

22o Bartholomew de Las Casas 

to embark. He there celebrated the feast of Corpus 
Domini with great pomp, and during the time occu- 
pied in his final preparations, he and his friars 
received many donations of necessaries. The fleet 
of twenty-seven ships, amongst large and small, 
only awaited the arrival of Dona Maria de Toledo, 
widow of the Admiral Don Diego Columbus, who 
was to sail for Hispaniola to safeguard the rights of 
her children in some disputed questions of inheritance, 
and upon her arrival, it immediately put to sea on 
July ioth. The new Bishop, with his faithful com- 
panion Ladrada and forty-five Dominican friars, em- 
barked on the San Salvador. On that same date he 
entered into possession of his meagre episcopal reve- 
nues, for an ordinance that had been passed to oblige 
the bishops of American dioceses to stay in them, 
established that their incomes should begin from 
the date of their sailing. 1 This proving insufficient, 



" The Prince. Know ye our officials of New Spain that the 
Emperor King, my Sovereign, on account of the good reports he 
has received of the character, the merits, and the life of the 
Rev. Father Bartholomew de Las Casas — of the Dominican 
Order — has presented him with the bishopric of the City of 
Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa. He informs me that the 
income therefrom is small and not sufficient to support it, and 
he has begged me to grant him from our privy purse the sum of 
five hundred thousand maravedis yearly, or what I please to 
give, above what is due from the tithes of the said bishopric, and 
I approve. Therefore I command you to ascertain what the 
fourth part of the tithes of the said bishopric amounts to, and 
if it does not come to five hundred thousand maravedis, whatever 
is wanting, shall be given and paid in gold pesos and other coin- 
age that you have or may have from the King's purse. This 
amount he is to enjoy from the day he sails from the port of 

His Departure 221 

as there were some who were satisfied with their 
episcopal dignity and preferred to remain in Spain, 
it was afterwards provided that their consecration 
must take place in America. 

Sanlucar de Barrameda, henceforth and during the whole time he 
resides in his bishopric; but not otherwise; and this shall be 
ascertained each year, in the forthcoming years during the life 
of the said bishop, by which means he will each year receive 
the fourth part of the said tithes, while residing in the said 
bishopric; five hundred thousand maravedis, neither more nor 
less, is he to enjoy, as already stated, from the day that he sails 
from the said port of Sanlucar de Barrameda, during the time he 
resides in the said bishopric. And should the fourth part of the 
said tithes amount to the said five hundred thousand maravedis, 
you are not in any way to employ his Majesty's revenue: and 
we command all persons ordered by us to audit your charges, 
to send you the account, with his receipt (or that of some one 
authorised by him) for what you thus give and pay to the said 
bishop. The copy of this document shall be entered in our 
books kept by you and the original, copied by you, shall be 
returned to the said bishop that he may keep it — dated in Valla- 
dolid, thirteenth day of February 1544 — I, the Prince. — by com- 
mand of His Highness, Juan de Samano"; — signed by the bishop 
of Cuenca, Gre. Velasquez, Gregorio Lopez y Salmeron. 

On the back of this document was the following : 

" Of the amount His Highness orders by this cedula to be paid 
to the said Fray Bartholomew de las Casas, bishop of the Pro- 
vince of Chiapa, the officials of India House in the city of Seville 
shall advance two hundred and fifty ducats and the officials of 
the province of Honduras another two hundred ducats, which 
shall be deducted from the said four hundred and fifty ducats 
of the first year's salary, or the fourth, he should receive by 
virtue of this document. Juan de Samano." 

Other royal ordinances relating to the departure of the new 
bishop from Spain, and providing for his reception in his diocese, 
will be found in Appendix III., at the close of this volume. 



BEFORE sailing to take possession of his dio- 
cese, Las Casas addressed the following let- 
ter of farewell to Prince Philip (afterwards 
Philip II.), then governing in the name of the 
Emperor, his father: 

Very high and very potent Lord: I received two 
letters simultaneously from Your Highness: the date of 
the last was April ist and accompanying it was the 
Royal cedula concerning the passage from Hispaniola to 
Honduras for the monks whom Your Highness is sending 
to those provinces. For all of which I kiss your Royal 
hands and for your kindness in granting that the bulls 
should be sent so promptly as to reach me in time to 
serve at my consecration, which, by divine grace, took 
place here in San Pablo on Passion Sunday as I already 
wrote Your Highness the day after. I trust to God our 
Lord that this dignity, to which, by divine Providence, our 
lord and sovereign the Emperor has elevated me, despite 
my unworthiness and inability to support it, may prove a 
sufficient instrument for better fulfilling my old desires 
to do the will of God, of which God has deigned to make 
use in those countries. It is His will that His Holy 
Faith should be preached and that the beings he has 


Letter to Philip II 223 

created and redeemed should know Him and that His 
predestined ones should be saved and His Majesty and 
Your Highness receive great services. Concerning 
the two hundred and fifty ducats which Your Highness 
granted me, the officials of this house have not yet ob- 
tained them, but I hope they will seek them and supply 
them in the end, though it may be with difficulty, because 
everybody is aware that His Majesty has no money in 
this house and that so many demands daily arise that 
there is not a man who will lend a maravedi to His 
Majesty. In truth, this is very injurious to His Majesty's 
service and to the greatness of his imperial State, because, 
according as his enemies learn that this house is rich 
or is in want of money — so will they either fear him or 
presume to cause him annoyances. In order that 
this house should always enjoy confidence to guarantee 
the above mentioned, it seems that Your Highness 
ought to command that, just as they keep account of 
what is spent in keeping an army and in feeding those 
who are actually in attendance, night and day, on the 
royal and imperial person of His Majesty and on Your 
Highness, so also should it be provided that when this 
house has a surplus of twenty or thirty thousand ducats, 
it should be reported to have one or two hundred thou- 
sand. Such sums should never, on account of any other 
necessity, be lacking here, for they would be useful 
for many things and by the credit they would give, the 
greatest wants could be met. I shall report; as Your 
Highness ordered, the number and names of the friars 
now sailing, as soon as we are all united, God willing, 
at San Lucar. 

Up to now I think we have forty-three. I am in 
hopes of more going from this province, from which we 
have seven or eight. But all those who are going, do 
not want to separate from those who come from Castile 

224 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

or to go to any other part of the Indies except where 
the latter do : the men from here are very virtuous and 
religious people. The number I have said we have here, 
would have been greater, had not some six or eight of 
those whom we brought from Castile stayed behind- 
I think that some were afraid and others were detained 
by reasonable obstacles: the latter, we hope will follow 
us when the causes are removed. I beg Your Highness 
to order the Provincial, who is now appointed to this 
province and who was formerly Prior of San Pablo in 
Valladolid, a true servant of God, and very zealous for 
God's honour and for the salvation of the Indians, to be 
induced to continually send monks to those parts, as I 
firmly believe he will amply comply. 

This house of San Pablo in Seville being very necessary 
for the religious Your Highness will be sending to the 
Indies, and having great expenses on account of the 
poverty and want of this city, where everything costs a 
third more than in Valladolid — which is frightful — I 
humbly beseech Your Highness always to remember it 
by gifts and by such alms as it may be possible to bestow 
on it: especially out of the funds of the dead. For I 
hold it to be as necessary to give alms to the house, and 
just as beneficial to the souls of the dead— to whom the 
fund belongs — as it is to give for the maintenance of the 
friars who go to preach the gospel in those parts where 
the deceased unrighteously amassed the riches they left 
behind them. Your Highness may believe that the pro- 
tection and good treatment shown here to the friars, tend 
to dispel their fears of the labours which friars in the 
Indies usually sustain. Without such encouragement 
everything would be just the contrary, and some 
would be frightened and discouraged, as has here- 
tofore happened. Certainly, up to the present, great 
have been the care and comfort that our companions, 

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Las Casas 

except where 
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Philip II. 

From a photograph of the origina 
in the Prario Museum. 

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[By permission of J. Laurent & Co., Madrid.] 


Letter to Philip II 225 

servants of God, have received here from the provin- 
cial and the prior. Twenty or twenty-two have been 
given shelter here. I therefore beg Your High- 
ness to bear this in mind, should there be an occa- 
sion in the future to grant them any favour or alms. 
In this city and throughout Andalusia there is a large 
number of Indians held unjustly as slaves; and when 
the licentiate Gregorio Lopez was here by order of His 
Majesty, they kept many Indians imprisoned after 
the order was given for their release, some being hidden 
and others taken into the country and elsewhere. I 
have even been told by a man who knows — to clear 
his conscience — that there was a great deal of bribery 
and corruption among wicked people, who used three 
or four or ten ducats to outrage God, stealing the 
liberty of the Indians and thus leaving many in 
perpetual slavery: they also hid the truth by threat- 
ening the Indians who showed themselves and by 
other means, such as withholding facts from the li- 
centiate Gregorio Lopez which he could not divine, but 
which should have been told him. The only remedy for 
such injustices, according to the officials of this house 
who are very good people as far as I can see and 
who have consciences, is that Your Highness should order 
to be proclaimed throughout Andalusia that all those 
who have Indians must bring or send them to this house 
within a certain time, otherwise they shall all be con- 
sidered as free; adding other penalties for non-com- 
pliance. According to the provision made by His 
Majesty, there should be an immediate settlement of 
the pretensions of those who allege a title by purchase, 
which allows them to hold an Indian as a slave 
until it is ascertained from whom he was first ac- 
quired; for they stole them all and sold them when 
they arrived here. Any such Indian should not remain 

226 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

in their possession but should be placed where he could 
earn enough to clothe himself and save sufficient to 
return to his country — because they subject him to a 
thousand oppressions and cruelties. I have seen things 
of that sort daily since my arrival. San Pablo is crowded 
with Indians who think that I can take them or can 
relieve their captivity and the torments they suffer. 
And their masters, discovering this by their absence, 
promptly beat them and put them in irons, even those 
whom the licentiate Gregorio Lopez left neither in slavery 
nor free. Not to prolong this letter, I do not relate many 
other things to Your Highness. 

I likewise beg Your Highness to order some relief 
that is final and not indefinite, for the men who were thus 
left neither slaves nor free : because I do not know what 
relief it can be considered, to leave them neither free nor 
slaves until they die ; for meanwhile, they are daily treated 
worse and worse by those who call them slaves and 
dogs, because they consider that the licentiate Gregorio 
Lopez approved of their captivity, etc., tying their hands 
the more tightly. I have seen what I state ever since 
I came here. Your Highness would both laugh at and 
abominate the spice dealers of this city, who barter 
spices for Indians and for gold (as it is they who 
mostly own them) , and their fierceness in making war on 
the Indians, that makes them to seem like dummy lions, 
painted. What I wish Your Highness would do to protect 
all such Indians as are left neither slaves or freemen 
and all who are bound in any way, would be to oblige 
their owners to exhibit a receipt of the sale : because it 
is clear to every one, save to those whose perceptions 
God has allowed to be weakened by their malice, audacity, 
and ambition, that there has never been a war in all 
the Indies for which there was any real authority given 
by His Majesty or by his royal predecessors. The royal 

Letter to Philip II 227 

instructions on this point have never been heeded, as I 
have seen and on my conscience affirm, and as all those 
violaters admit. Consequently, as there was never just 
cause, it follows that all the wars were unjust and that 
no Indians could have been justly enslaved : all the more 
so since the Spaniards attacked them in time of peace and 
captured millions of them. This being the real truth, 
Your Highness should order that all such owners be 
obliged to prove the title of him who sold any such 
Indian, and so on back till the first one who stole or 
treacherously captured him is unearthed. In the mean- 
time the Indians should be taken from them and placed 
as above indicated, all of which should be done within 
a limited time, so that the legal proceedings would not 
last eternally; and when they are finished the said 
Indian should be declared free. 

But what I would take on my conscience and would 
answer for to God on my deathbed is, that Your Highness 
should proclaim throughout this kingdom that all the 
Indians here must be free — because in truth they are just 
as free as I am. In this Casa de Contractacion, outside 
its judges and officials such as the treasurer, account- 
ant, and agents, who seem to me to be those I have 
mentioned above, and some few minor officials, I see 
there is little zeal or kindness for the Indians, and I 
observe such disinclination to accomplish anything in 
their favour, that however small may be the pendulum, 
they work it with as much effort as though it were a 
tower they had to move. 

Truly I think Your Highness must order everything 
to be done gratis and willingly; — or if not, then pay 
somebody who will do it. There is very great need here 
for somebody to help these poor Indians, being as they 
are, in great want and more than miserable, because they 
do not know how to ask for justice. They have been 

228 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

so intimidated and thrust down into the very abyss, that 
they dare not complain. I do not find a single man who 
will take pity on them : but on the contrary, every one 
persecutes, terrorizes, and despises them. And I am 
sure God will execute justice and exact vengeance for all 
this. It would be well if Your Highness would order a 
salary to be paid some man who would act as their 
lawyer in the House, commanding all necessary authority 
to be attached to his office, and that the officials should 
help him in it. If it is necessary to consult His Majesty 
for this, do not let these poor wretches suffer for want 
of protection as they have always done. There is a 
porter in this House, a good man who, according to what 
I have seen and the officials told me, has repeatedly 
taken pity on them, and I beseech Your Highness to 
grant me and all the Indians the favour of ordering him 
to be appointed as protector of all the Indians in this 
Kingdom and of their affairs in this House, authorising 
him to report all the happenings of any importance to 
Your Highness and to the Royal Council of the Indies. 
Let this power be given to Diego Collantes, porter of the 
said House ; and to ensure his using it the more faithfully 
until Your Highness pleases to grant him a salary, 
I will pay him twenty ducats yearly, so that he may do 
his duty in the said office. The truth is, that although 
he is a good man, the position needs a man with much 
more authority but for the present he would suffice. 
Juan de la Quadra, who was secretary to the licentiate 
Gregorio Lopez while he was here, spoke to me about these 
matters. He seems to me an honest, upright person and 
one who feels deeply the crimes committed in this city 
against the Indians. He is writing to Your Highness on 
the subject and I beseech Your Highness to order some 
remedy provided for the actual necessities. He informs 
me that he is writing in the sense of what I said above. 

Letter to Philip II 229 

The licentiate Bartolome Ortiz did not bring his 
Indians to be registered within the period intimated 
to him and says that he protested against the sentence 
before this Royal Council, also with regard to other 
Indians whom he held as slaves, despite the fact that they 
were free. Amongst these was an Indian woman who 
was beyond question free, and had been declared free by 
Gregorio Lopez, who left orders for her to be sent at the 
licentiate's expense to the island of Cuba from whence 
he brought her. Ortiz also appealed from this decision. 
As I asked that she might now be given the letter and 
order of Your Highness permitting her to return with 
this fleet, Ortiz presented a statement showing that 
his case was at present in appeal before this Royal 

I beseech Your Highness not to permit these appeals 
and delays in cases which are favourable to the liberty 
of the Indians and of everybody in the world, because 
there will be no end to them nor will a single Indian ever 
obtain his liberty. I beg that Your Highness will order 
this Indian woman and the others to be liberated and 
allowed to return to their country. 

It is indeed a great weight on my conscience to leave 
the Indians in this country, because, as they only mix 
with servants and other unmanageable and vicious 
persons and see the taverns full of loose people, without 
order or restraint, and other public places full of bad 
examples, it must happen that they, being human, will 
follow the example of their companions. In their own 
country, on the contrary, they live much better than here, 
even if there are not so many Christians. I beseech Your 
Highness to issue such orders that not one man of them 
may remain here. 

It would also be well if Your Highness ordered an 
explanation of the proclamation that you commanded 

230 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

to be published throughout all the Indies, prohibiting 
the officials of India House from receiving Indians into 
this kingdom : also instructions as to what they must do 
to forbid this traffic, under penalty of death, to ship 
captains and sailors, so that no one would dare to bring 
an Indian, nor allow one to be brought here. Let them 
know that they are forewarned in such cases. 

Thinking there was nothing doubtful in the cedulas 
Your Highness sent for the departure of these religious, 
I did not care to exhibit the cedula until the very end, in 
case we took besides the forty, an excess of stores, etc. 
Now that I have shown it to the officials, they maintain 
that, as it does not expressly state that those above 
the number of forty should be provided for out of the 
funds of the dead, but from the money in the charge of 
the treasurers, they do not intend to provide for more 
than the forty, lest they should have to pay out of their 
own pockets. I beseech Your Highness graciously to 
order this settled at once, so that we shall not be forced 
to leave behind the religious we hope to embark, in 
addition to the forty. And let this be done soon, for we 
are only waiting for good weather. The heavy rains 
which have fallen daily have prevented the launching 
of two or three of the vessels. To-day the river from 
its source has abated. Our Lord prosper and grant a 
long and happy life to Your Highness. Amen. Seville 
20th April 1544. Your humble servant who kisses 
Your Royal hands. 

Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, 

Bishop of Chiapa. 

To-night the following occurred — an Indian came to 
me complaining that notwithstanding his certificate of 
freedom, given him by Gregorio Lopez, his owner kept him 
in slavery and treated him worse than a slave, sending 

Voyage to America 231 

him out with a donkey to carry and sell water. He 
showed me his certificate of freedom, in the presence of ten 
or twelve monks. I told him to go to-day to the Casa de 
Contractacion so that its officials might correct the abuse, 
and I sent a servant with him to show him the building — 
because if his master found out, he would keep him until 
he called in the officials. Finally his owner discovered 
him and took the letter and tore it up. He said "bring 
chains and put them on this dog. " The Indian escaped 
through a window and they cried after him, "Thief, 
thief," so that somebody down below came and beat him, 
and stabbed him in the jaw. He managed to reach a 
place where some of my servants were, and they are try- 
ing to cure him : but he is dying. One of my servants 
went to the assistant to tell him what had happened, but 
the latter answered that he was not astonished that 
people killed the Indians, because they stole and did 
much harm. I beg Your Highness to note how destitute 
they are of any pity. With judges so cruelly unjust and 
tyrannical, Your Highness may imagine what sort of 
things happen over there [in the colonies] with the Span- 
iards against the Indians, when they dare do these things 
in Seville where, the other day a judge ordered an Indian 
to be stabbed to death. 

Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, 


The voyage began badly, for the San Salvador 
was poorly ballasted and only arrived at Gomera, 
one of the Canary Islands, after considerable diffi- 
culty and danger, on the 19th of July, and was de- 
tained there for ten days until the ship was made 
seaworthy. Some of the friars who were unfamiliar 
with sea-voyages conceived such mistrust of the 

232 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

San Salvador that they refused to again go aboard 
her, so it was necessary to distribute these nine- 
teen timid souls amongst the other ships. The 30th 
of July saw the fleet again at sea, and the voyage 
to Hispaniola continued without any untoward 
incident, until the 9th of September, when they 
arrived in the harbour of Santo Domingo, where 
the same vessel on which Las Casas and the twenty- 
seven friars were, ran on a rock and came near being 
wrecked in sight of land: hardly was this disaster 
surmounted when she collided with another of 
the ships to the imminent peril of both, though, for- 
tunately, with no great injury to either. 

The Dominicans in Santo Domingo conducted the 
Bishop and his friars in solemn procession to the 
convent, where Te Deum Laudamus was sung. 

In striking contrast to this affectionate reception 
was that which awaited him from the colonists. 
The New Laws were regarded as the ruin of the 
colonies and Las Casas was universally considered 
the inspirer, if not actually the framer of these laws, 
hence the indignation and hatred of the Spaniards 
against him and all Dominicans was at fever heat: 
meetings were held, in which it was resolved to 
boycott the friars and refuse them all alms or assist- 
ance. Seeing the odium he had unwittingly wrought 
upon his hosts, the Bishop was inclined to leave their 
convent and go to the Franciscans, but this was 
rightly considered as likely to spread the antagonism 
which had so far manifested itself against the Do- 
minicans only. Even before things had reached 
this point, Las Casas had already written Prince 

Feeling in the Colonies 233 

Philip, on the 15th of September, denouncing the 
cruelties which still went on unchecked and men- 
tioning by name a number of officials who were un- 
worthy to occupy the positions they held, because of 
the grave abuses they committed and tolerated. 

On September 10th a letter which shows the state 
of public feeling towards the New Laws and the new 
Bishop was addressed to the Emperor by the prin- 
cipal colonists of Nicaragua. 

The signers avow their surprise that their twenty- 
five or thirty years of services to the Crown should be 
rewarded by seeing their children disinherited, and 
declare that if the New Laws are put in force, despite 
their cries to high heaven for justice, it will only 
remain for many of them to die. Las Casas is de- 
nounced as an envious, vainglorious, and turbulent 
monk, who has been expelled from every colony in 
the Indies and whom even no monastery can tolerate. 
He is charged with bringing ruin on large numbers 
of people, solely because revengeful motives prompt 
him to injure certain individuals. It is also pointed 
out that he knows nothing about affairs in New 
Spain and the mainland, having spent all his life 
in Cuba and the islands. 

However much Las Casas may have deplored the 
feeling his presence provoked and especially the 
rancour he had stirred up against his brethren, 
whose only offence lay in giving him hospitality, 
he did not allow his regrets on this score to arrest 
or modify the steps he intended to take to enforce 
obedience to the New Laws. Shortly after his 
arrival, he presented copies of the laws and of the 

234 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

other royal ordinances which he carried, to the Au- 
diencia, asking that, in accordance with their pro- 
visions, all Indians then held in slavery should be 
liberated. Although the President, Cerrato, sup- 
ported him, the other members of the Audiencia 
were one and all opposed. According to the current 
phrase, they agreed to obey the law, but declared 
they could not comply with it. They all held slaves 
themselves and the only result of the action of Las 
Casas was, that they sent their representatives to 
Spain to procure some reform in the more obnoxious 
articles of the code. 

The presence of Las Casas in Hispaniola infused 
new courage into the Dominicans, who had been 
discouraged in recent years by the difficulty and 
hopelessness of contending against public opinion 
on the subject of the Indians and had consequently 
ceased to preach and agitate in their favour: some 
members of the community had even been affected 
by the prevalent opinion that the Indians were 
really a race of a different order, servile by nature, 
and destined by Providence to a life of subjection 
to their superiors. Learned arguments were found 
to sustain this opinion. The well-known chapters 
of Aristotle's Politics were quoted, the Scriptures 
were drawn upon, and, as not infrequently happens, 
many good men adopted the ea ler line of not con- 
tending with the views of the rich and powerful. 

There now ensued a sort of revival of the old 
enthusiasm in the defence of the natives; sermons 
were preached which stirred up great wrath and 
provoked protest from the authorities. It was easy 

Arrival in Chiapa 235 

to adopt reprisals on the friars, and the colonists 
did not hesitate to do so, refusing alms and supplies 
to the convents. Threats of violence, even of shooting 
Fray Tomas Casillas, whose sermons had been 
particularly offensive, were not wanting, though 
fortunately they were not executed. The friars 
were reduced to the last extremity and, but for the 
charity of some few sympathisers and the generous 
aid of the Franciscan monks who fed them, they 
would have found themselves in want of the absolute 
necessaries of life in the midst of a hostile populace. 
At this juncture a notable conversion was effected 
by their preaching ; a widow named Solano, who was 
reputed the richest person in the colony, came one 
day to the convent and declared that she was con- 
vinced of the truth of all the preachers had ex- 
pounded concerning the iniquity of slavery and that 
she had in consequence resolved, not only to liberate 
her two hundred and more slaves, but to make resti- 
tution of her tainted wealth in as far as she could, 
by transferring her plantations to the Order, as her 
awakened conscience forbade her enjoyment of it. 
This event stirred the entire colony profoundly, and 
as the action of the friars was so clearly contrary 
to their own temporal interests as to place the 
sincerity of their convictions and the purity of 
their motive beyond question, a certain revulsion 
in public sentiment began to manifest itself. It is not 
recorded that anybody else followed the widow's 
example, but such a change was operated in the 
disposition of the better class of people that when the 
time for Las Casas and his friars to leave arrived, 

236 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

regret for their departure was expressed on all sides. 
On December 14th they embarked on what proved 
to be a long and tempestuous voyage, attended by 
many and great dangers; owing to the ignorance of 
the pilot, the Bishop himself had to take the wheel. 
Christmas was celebrated at sea, and it was not until 
the fifth of January that they finally landed at the 
port of Lazaro on the coast of Campeche. The 
first episcopal function performed by the Bishop in 
his new diocese was the pontifical celebration of 
the vigil and mass of the Epiphany, during which he 
delivered an earnest discourse on the one theme that 
furnished material for all his sermons and writings — 
the injustice and sin of slavery and the obligation 
resting on all Christian Spaniards to liberate their 
slaves in conformity with the laws of the Emperor, 
and to provide for their humane treatment and con- 
version, according to the law of God. 



ALTHOUGH the Bishop of Chiapa, upon landing 
in his diocese, determined to follow the dic- 
tates of prudence rather than the promptings 
of zeal in bringing his spiritual subjects into submis- 
sion to the New Laws, the question of Indian slavery 
was one so closely bound up with their temporal inter- 
ests that no moderation or persuasion on his part 
could have availed to bring about their renunciation 
of the established system. In the first sermons 
preached by his friars, the subject of slavery was not 
mentioned, and Las Casas sought, more by private 
conversation and argument with individuals, to 
convince them of the grave infraction of morals 
as well as the open violation of the law, they 
committed in holding the Indians in slavery. His 
arguments fell upon deaf ears, nor did a single 
Spaniard accept his admonitions or entertain for 
a moment the idea of liberating his slaves. Nor 
did their resistance confine itself to a passive 
form, for within a short time, the colonists openly 
refused him obedience and withheld his lawful 
tithes, declaring that they would not receive him 
as their Bishop, and occasioning him every annoy- 


238 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

ance and discomfort they could invent. The 
refusal of his tithes caused the Bishop serious em- 
barrassment, as it left him without funds to pay 
for the ship he had chartered in Hispaniola for 
his journey to Campeche. The priest of the town 
managed to raise about one hundred castellanos for 
this purpose and Las Casas signed a note for the 

The Governor of those regions at that time was 
Francisco de Montejo, who had played a conspicuous 
part in the affairs of Mexico, whither he had gone with 
Fernando Cortes. He was absent when Las Casas 
landed at Campeche and became the object of such 
general and determined hostility, and his son was 
governing in his stead. In response to the announce- 
ment of the Bishop's presence, the Governor de- 
spatched his brother-in-law, who was a person of 
some authority, to welcome the Bishop, instructing 
him to treat him in all respects with the highest 
consideration and in case he wished to come to 
Merida, to arrange everything necessary for his 
journey thither. 

It was decided to make the journey by sea rather 
than by the more difficult overland route, and one 
boat-load of friars sailed, carrying a large part of 
the stores, which included vestments and altar plate 
and other church furnishings. Hardly were the 
preparations for the departure of the Bishop and 
the remainder of his people completed, when the 
distressing news of the total loss of this vessel and 
its cargo reached them from Champoton, an Indian 
village, where the few survivors of the wreck had 

Reception in His Diocese 239 

found refuge. Nine friars and twenty-three other 
persons perished in this disaster, the news of which 
threw a heavy cloud of sadness over the little band 
of missionaries. Thousands of miles from their 
native land and in a new world, these men were 
sustained solely by their faith in their mission and 
their confidence in the leadership of their venerable 
Bishop, for they were not only cut off from hope of 
succour but were exposed to the persecutions of 
their own countrymen, because of their zeal for 
justice, in defending the oppressed against cupidity 
and cruelty. Despite the many causes for discour- 
agement Las Casas decided, on the advice of the 
pilot of the ship that was to carry them, to profit 
by the fair weather then prevailing, and set the exam- 
ple to the others of going first on board the vessel. 
The friars followed in silence, and so entirely were 
their thoughts given to the premature fate of their 
lost comrades, that the whole of that night and the 
following day were passed in silence and prayer: 
when the ship reached the place where the wreck 
had occurred, the prayers for the dead were solemnly 
recited by the tearful company. This becoming 
tribute rendered to the memory of the departed, 
Las Casas seated himself at table and, setting the 
others a wholesome example, he began to eat, for 
until then no one had had the heart to touch food. 
The weather suddenly changed for the worse and a 
perilous Norther, which was the greatest enemy of 
navigation in those waters, sprang up, forcing the ves- 
sel to put in at the island of Terminos, where some frag- 
ments of the wreck were found, but the sea had given 

240 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

up no dead. Three days passed in waiting for better 
weather, and though Las Casas desired to re-embark 
and continue the voyage, Fray Tomas Casillas was 
in favour of waiting for the shipwrecked people at 
Champoton to overtake them, and then to continue 
the journey overland. This difference of opinion 
led to a division of the company, the Bishop re- 
embarking with Father Ladrada and a few of the 
others, while the majority were left to follow the 
overland route. 

The chief city of the diocese of Chiapa was Ciudad 
Real, and the Bishop, on his arrival, was accorded a 
warm welcome and was lodged in one of the best 
houses in the place, belonging to a Spaniard who was 
absent at that time, while the friars were accommo- 
dated in another, just opposite. The clergy of the 
immense diocese was scanty enough, being composed 
of two priests in that town and three others else- 
where ; of these latter common report did not speak 
well, as their secular occupations and efforts to en- 
rich themselves brought discredit upon their clerical 
character. The cathedral was a small church, of 
poor construction and meagrely furnished with the 
necessaries for celebrating the religious offices. 
One of the new Bishop's first disciplinary acts was 
to summon the three vagrant priests to Ciudad Real, 
where he might constrain them to a more sacerdotal 
life under his immediate authority. Las Casas lived 
according to the strict rule of his Order, eating only 
fish, eggs, and vegetables, and, though he permitted 
meat to the others who sat at his table, there was so 
little to tickle the palate of the epicure that two out 

Reception in His Diocese 241 

of the three renounced allegiance to their Bishop 
and betook themselves beyond the confines of 
his diocese where they speedily fell into evil ways. 
His life at this period was one of truly apostolic 
simplicity; although seventy years old, his habits 
were as frugal and austere as those of any anchorite. 
Towards the Spanish colonists he at first manifest- 
ed mild and affectionate sentiments, which blinded 
them so entirely to the indomitable energy and fear- 
less spirit that animated him, that they, on their part, 
showed themselves obsequious and generous. The 
deception was mutual, and disillusion only awaited 
the moment when the material interests of the Span- 
iards should be touched, to declare itself. Slavery 
flourished throughout the diocese, to the great 
affliction of the Bishop : he first sought by private con- 
versations with the principal persons of the colony, 
by arguments, explanation of the New Laws and of 
the Emperor's wishes, to effect the liberation of the 
Indians, but failing in this, he next preached publicly 
on the subject. No headway was made by one or 
the other means employed, while shocking cruelties 
were of daily occurrence and the Indians, who recog- 
nised the Bishop as their only protector and advocate, 
brought him tales of their sufferings which left him 
no choice but to have recourse to stronger measures. 
The Easter season of 1545 was approaching, and 
the fulfilment of the precept of confession, which 
marks the farthermost frontier of Catholic obser- 
vance, within which even the most lax must remain 
under penalty of excommunication ipso facto, afforded 
the Bishop his opportunity. He withdrew from all 

242 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

his clergy, except the dean and canon of his cathedral 
church, their faculties for granting absolution, re- 
serving to himself all questions involving the relations 
of the Spaniards to the Indians. He furnished the 
two appointed confessors with a detailed list of cases, 
in which not merely the questions of holding slaves 
and cruel treatment were involved, but likewise 
those which had to do with the right to hold property 
acquired unjustly from the natives and by violation 
of the law. 

This treatise was doubtless the same that was 
published in 1552 entitled Confesionario, etc., or in 
any case it contained the root doctrines of which 
that tract may have been an elaboration. Both upon 
the ability and the fidelity of the two confessors 
he had selected, the Bishop felt he could rely, but in 
the case of the Dean he was again mistaken in his 
choice, for in certain of the reserved cases the latter 
declared that he found no grounds, either in canon 
law or in any authorities, for his Bishop's decision. 
The Mercedarian friars, who also had a community 
in the diocese, were likewise opposed to the severity 
of the Bishop, and as none of the colonists were 
disposed to ruin themselves by liberating the In- 
dians, the situation was a grave one for a Catholic 
community, for no matter how little in conformity 
with the Church's teaching were the daily lives 
of many, excommunication was intolerable to all 
of them. Remonstrances and petitions against his 
trenchant decision poured in upon the Bishop, and 
the Dean, supported by the Mercedarians, undertook 
to intercede for the Spaniards and, if possible, to 

Events in Chiapa 243 

obtain some relaxation of the obnoxious ruling. 
Their efforts were vain, for the simple reason that 
Las Casas held that it was not within his compe- 
tence to recede from his decision without practically 
denying his life's mission. As the tension became 
daily more severe, the colonists addressed to the 
Bishop, a formal " requirement' ' drawn up by a no- 
tary public, containing arguments to support their 
-claims, based on the terms of the Bull of Alexander 
VI. and threatening, if he persisted in refusing them 
the sacraments, to appeal to his metropolitan, the 
Archbishop of Mexico, and ultimately to the Pope: 
meanwhile they would denounce him to the King and 
his Council as a disturber of the public peace and a 
formenter of dissensions and troubles in the country. 
To this threat the Bishop answered: "O blind men! 
How completely does the devil deceive you ! Where- 
fore do you threaten me with your complaints to the 
Archbishop, to the Pope, and to the King? Know 
then that though I am obliged by the law of God 
to do as I do, and you to obey what I tell you, you 
are likewise constrained thereunto by the most just 
laws of your sovereign, since you think yourselves 
such faithful vassals to him." After reading some 
of the articles of the New Laws forbidding slavery to 
them, he continued: "According to this, it is I who 
might much better complain of you, for not obeying 
your King." The situation was a deadlock, for 
the Bishop was immovable, neither would the 
Spaniards give way. From murmuring against 
his decision and questioning his authority to impose 
such unreasonable and ruinous commands, they 

244 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

passed to calumny and ridicule, and as these weapons 
are forged by evil imaginations and their exercise 
is unhampered by the restrictions of truth, many 
fantastic accusations were invented against Las 
Casas, and diligently circulated. The most frugal 
and abstemious of men was accused of gluttony 
and intemperance; his learning, which was certainly 
varied if not vast and was by no means mediocre, was 
declared to be superficial and insufficient to enable 
him to properly weigh nice questions of theology 
and law, and finally it was insinuated that some of 
his opinions were heretical and that his refusal to 
allow the sacraments of penance and the eucharist in 
his diocese proceeded from his dissembled Lutheran- 
ism. As a hint of what might overtake him if he per- 
sisted in his course, a musket was fired into the window 
of his room one night. Even the children were taught 
scurrilous couplets which they sang at him, when he 
appeared in the streets: only his Dominicans re- 
mained faithful to him in this difficult season and 
their fidelity, though doubtless a source of great con- 
solation to him, had for its chief visible effect, to in- 
volve the friars in the popular execration visited on 
the Bishop. It was a repetition of the incidents in 
Hispaniola, for likewise in Chiapa the people turned 
against the friars, refraining from their ministrations 
and refusing them alms and support. 1 

1 Letters of sympathy reached the people of Chiapa from their 
friends in other colonies, condoling with them on being afflicted 
with " such a devil for a bishop." " Great indeed must be the 
sins of your country when God punishes it with such a scourge 
as sending that Anti-Christ as bishop." In such ribald terms 
was one such letter composed. 

Events in Chiapa 245 

The first act of open rebellion came from the Dean, 
who administered the communion during Holy 
Week to various persons who not only continued 
to hold their Indians in spite of the Bishop's remon- 
strances and admonitions, but were notoriously 
engaged at that very time in buying and selling 
slaves. The disobedience of his subordinate could 
not be left unnoticed and the bishop resolved to 
reprimand him, but paternally, in presence of the 
other clergy, as an example. This intention was 
more easily formed than executed, for the Dean 
refused to appear, although the first summons came 
in the form of an invitation to dinner: three times 
was the summons repeated but each time, on one pre- 
text or another, it was evaded, until there only re- 
mained to summon him officially and to censure his 
violation of his Bishop's instructions and his refusal to 
appear before him. As even this severe measure left 
him unmoved, Las Casas ordered his arrest and sent 
his alguacil and some of the clergy to bring the recal- 
citrant Dean before him. The news of what was 
passing had spread through the town and when the 
diocesan authorities went to make the arrest, quite a 
crowd of people had collected to see the outcome of 
the ecclesiastical duel. The appearance of the Dean, 
being conducted by force to answer to the Bishop 
for disobedience that had been prompted by his 
compliance to the Spaniards' desires, provoked a 
demonstration in his favour. He, seeing his oppor- 
tunity, began to call for help, crying: ''Help me to 
get free, gentlemen, and I '11 confess everybody! 
Get me free and I '11 absolve all of you!" A great 

246 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

hubbub ensued ; men armed themselves to attack the 
Bishop's alguacil; some barricaded the Dominicans 
in their convent to prevent their coming to the 
assistance of the arresting party, others freed the 
Dean from his captors, and thus, with great uproar 
and shouts for the King and his justice against the 
Bishop, the mob arrived at the latter's house, into 
which a crowd forced its way with clamorous 

A gentleman named Rodriguez de Villafuerte, 
who was in the ante-chamber in company with Fray 
Domingo de Medinilla, managed to somewhat calm 
the turbulence of the people. The leaders of the mob 
burst into the room beyond, where Fray Domingo 
had insisted that the Bishop should remain, instead 
of coming out to face the rioters as he wished, in- 
sulting him in the coarsest language and even threat- 
ening to kill him. The storm of popular fury broke 
itself against the imperturbable serenity and in- 
flexible determination with which Las Casas met 
and dominated it. Though the crowd dispersed, 
cowed and sullen, to their houses, the murmuring 
continued, and the friars dared not leave their con- 
vents, for fear of provoking a fresh outbreak. 

The Bishop cancelled the ecclesiastical faculties 
of his Dean and excommunicated him. 

The man who had threatened to kill Las Casas 
was the same one who had once before fired a musket 
shot through the Bishop's window, by way of warning 
him, and as he was known for a hot-headed reckless 
person, the friars were seriously apprehensive lest he 
might execute his threat ; they begged Las Casas to 

Events in Chiapa 247 

leave and go to a place of safety. " Where, " he 
asked in reply, "would you, Fathers, have me go? 
Where shall I be safe as long as I act in behalf 
of these poor creatures? Were the cause mine, I 
would drop it with pleasure, but it is that of my 
flock, of these miserable Indians, wearied and 
oppressed by unjust slavery and insupportable 
tributes, which others of my flock have imposed 
upon them. Here I wish to remain; this church 
is my spouse, it is not mine to abandon. This 
is the purpose of my residence [here]. I wish to 
irrigate it with my blood, if they take my life, so that 
zeal for God's service may be absorbed by the very 
ground I hold, to make it fertile, to bring forth the 
fruit of desire — the end of the injustice that stains 
and infects it. This is my wish, this is my deter- 
mined resolve, and I shall not be so fortunate that 
God will permit the inhabitants of this city to fulfil 
it ; other times have I found myself in greater dangers 
and, because of my un worthiness, God has withheld 
from me the crown of martyrdom. These disturb- 
ances, and the hatred of the conquerors for me, are 
of ancient date; I no longer feel their insults nor 
fear their threats, and in comparison with what has 
happened to me in Spain and the Indies, those of 
the other day were very moderate." 

Against such steadfast resolution, the colonists 
could not hope to prevail, and one of the first re- 
sults of the violent attack upon the Bishop, was a 
certain reaction in public sentiment when calmer 
judgment reasserted itself. There was even some 
counter demonstration, and the news was brought 

248 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

to Las Casas that the man who had threatened to 
kill him had himself been badly mauled and beaten. 
The Bishop was the first and most assiduous of the 
injured man's visitors, even preparing with his own 
hands, bandages and ointments to dress his hurts. 
Such charity and abnegation could not but touch 
even the rude object of these attentions, and after 
repeatedly begging the Bishop's forgiveness for his 
recent violence, the man attached himself to him 
from thenceforth, and became one of his warmest 

Nevertheless, the attacks on the Bishop and on 
the friars did not lessen for long, nor was the resent- 
ment against them diminished amongst the greater 
number of the colonists, who pushed their reprisals 
to such an extent that, not only were the priests 
reduced to the barest necessities of life, but even 
wine for the celebration of mass was wanting and 
unobtainable. To remedy this necessity, Indians 
were sent out into the province to beg for the friars, 
but the Spaniards learned of this measure and, after 
forbidding the natives to give them anything, they 
seized whatever these messengers obtained in spite 
of the prohibition, and gave them a sound beating as 
a preventive of any future excursions. 

Existence in such surroundings was no longer 
possible, and the friars resolved to leave Ciudad 
Real. They sent out four of their number in ad- 
vance, after which Fray Tomas de la Torre announced 
from the pulpit their intention to abandon the 
convent and the reasons which forced them to go. 

Learning from those who had gone ahead that 

Events in Chiapa 249 

they had been well received in Chiapa, and that 
everything seemed propitious for the foundation 
of a convent there, the community prepared to 
follow. Before definitely abandoning Ciudad Real, 
it was thought well to deliver a final address to the 
people, explaining clearly and fully the righteous- 
ness of their doctrine concerning slavery. This dis- 
course was pronounced by Fray Alonso de Villabra, 
who cited many authorities to show that the iniquity 
of slavery was beyond dispute and that it was 
condemned by the laws of God and man alike. The 
sermon failed to convince the hostile and unwilling 
listeners, whose interests were bound up in slavery, 
and the only result of this last well-meant effort 
was to intensify, if possible, the irritation against 
the Bishop and the friars. 

The reception of this interesting band of apostolic 
men by the people of Chiapa, was in striking contrast 
to the menacing demonstrations which provoked 
and accompanied their departure from Ciudad Real. 
More than a league outside the town, the exiles found 
a large number of Indians, decked out in their best 
gold ornaments and plumes, carrying crosses made 
of feathers and flowers, awaiting their arrival, to 
escort them to the quarters prepared for them. 

As soon as the Bishop was housed, an immense 
number of natives came from all parts of the neigh- 
bourhood, begging to be taught the Christian religion. 
The joy of the tormented Bishop at this demonstra- 
tion may be imagined, and he urged the friars, after 
such proofs of the disposition of the Indians to 
receive the faith, to send to persuade other religious 

250 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

to come and join them in the work of converting 
the willing people. 

The Spaniard who held the encomienda of Chiapa 
was an astute person, in reality quite as vicious as 
any of the others but more adroit in concealing his 
evil doings; he found small difficulty in deceiving 
the simple friars and, by showing them hospitality 
and professing great respect for the New Laws, he 
succeeded in persuading them that he was their friend 
and protector. The harmony of their relations could 
not however remain long undisturbed ; from profess- 
ing friendship he passed to more or less open acts of 
hostility, and from flattery he resorted to calumny. 
An incident which occurred may serve admirably to 
illustrate the deceptions practised by the colonists 
on the ignorant Indians. One of the more intelligent 
of the natives came one day to the Dominicans and 
spoke as follows: 

"Fathers, behold we are becoming bewildered. Our 
master told us when you came, that he had written a 
letter to the Emperor his brother [sic] asking that you be 
sent to say Mass for us and that it was by his order that 
you came to live amongst us. Since then, he tells us that 
you are poverty-stricken people, who come here to be sup- 
ported by our labour, because you have not enough to 
eat in your own country. He has forbidden us to give 
you the ground for your convent and to allow the church 
to be altered. You, on the other hand, tell us we should 
not call him our master, for no man other than God whom 
you preach, is that; you tell us, also, that this man is a 
mortal like ourselves, subject to the Emperor, King of 
Castile, and that the Alcaldes at Ciudad Real may 

Indians of Chiapa 251 

punish him. He tells us that he is next to God and has 
no master in the world. I don't understand you; you 
speak ill of our master; he speaks ill of you, and with all 
this we see you going about together good friends, 
neither of you daring to speak in the other's presence of 
what each tells us in the other's absence. If you are 
honest, speak clearly, for we are in a cloud of smoke 
from your manner of proceeding." 1 

1 Remesal, lib. vi., cap. xvi. 





EVERYWHERE throughout the province of 
Chiapa, the heart of Las Casas was wrung 
by a repetition of the same tales of violence 
and rapacity; women stolen, property wrested from 
the defenceless Indians, and the people bought and 
sold like cattle, to be mercilessly overworked until 
more merciful death released them from bondage. 
The Bishop was helpless, having no power or author- 
ity to enforce obedience either to the moral law he 
perpetually preached, or to the New Laws he every- 
where expounded to the obdurate colonists. This 
condition of things, to which no end was apparent, 
determined him in June, 1 545, to lay the matter before 
the Audiencia of the Confines and to demand that 
the provisions of the New Laws be enforced. To 
reach the town of Gracias a Dios from Ciudad Real, 
whither he had returned, he took the road through 
Guatemala, yielding to the entreaties of his former 
companion Fray Pedro de Angulo, who desired him 
to see the admirable results achieved in the Tierra de 
Guerra. Truly after such disappointments, suf- 
ferings, and persecutions, the Bishop deserved the 


The Land of War 253 

consolation he derived from beholding the transform- 
ation of those formerly savage idolaters, into 
peaceful and civilised Christians, living in their 
towns in an orderly fashion far beyond what his 
highest hopes had allowed him to believe possible. 
The caciques of the different towns vied with one 
another in celebrating his arrival, and Las Casas 
spoke to them all in their own language and delivered 
to them the cedulas he had obtained for them from 
the Emperor in Barcelona on May 1, 1543, in which 
their exemption from every kind of servitude was 
promised in perpetuity. 

The journey from Tululatzan to Gracias a Dios 
was both a difficult and a perilous one, especially 
at that season when the rains had swollen the rivers 
and destroyed the mountain roads. It is significant 
that throughout the life of Las Casas in America, 
he is never once mentioned as being ill or obliged 
on account of any infirmity to defer or alter his plans. 
His constitution was evidently one of steel. In spite 
of his seventy-one years, he reached his destination 
in due time, where he met the bishops of Guatemala 
and Nicaragua, the latter of whom was about to be 
consecrated. The Bishop-elect of Nicaragua was 
Fray Antonio de Valdivieso, also a Dominican, who 
fully shared the opinions and sympathies of Las 
Casas. All three of these prelates had grievances 
and petitions for redress of abuses and for the stricter 
administration of the laws in favour of the Indians, 
to lay before the Audiencia. Since that particular 
tribunal had been created for the purpose of execut- 
ing these laws and was composed of men whom Las 

254 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Casas had either chosen himself or recommended, the 
bishops were justified in anticipating a favourable 
hearing and a speedy adjustment of their com- 
plaints. They obtained neither however, and es- 
pecially towards Las Casas was the opposition of 
the auditors directed. When he first entered the 
council room, some of them cried: "Out with that 
lunatic!" and on another occasion, when Las Casas 
declined to withdraw, the President, Maldonado 
(well named indeed !), ordered him to be ejected by 
force. Again, when the Bishop, with great solemnity, 
demanded that the Audiencia should correct the 
abuses complained of and should relieve the Indians 
from unlawful oppression, Maldonado answered: 
"You are a cheat, a bad man, a bad bishop, a 
shameful fellow, and you deserve to be punished." 1 

Such language in open council, addressed by the 
presiding officer to a bishop, sounds incredible, and 
considering the great influence of religion on all 
Spaniards of that time, it is not wonderful that 
after such insolence, this petty official was regarded 
by the entire community as excommunicated; a 
half-hearted apology, ungraciously made, sufficed 
however to avoid an open scandal. 

Las Casas had already assured his friars in Ciudad 
Real that he neither felt insults nor feared threats, 
so the vulgar abuse of Maldonado did not touch 
him; he drew up and presented a wordy memorial 
to the Audiencia, divided into seven articles. The 

1 " I well merit all you say, Senor Maldonado," replied Las 
Casas, with unmoved mien and quiet irony, for he it was who 
had solicited the appointment of the man who insulted him. 

Audiencia of the Confines 255 

first article affirmed that the Bishop was hindered 
in the exercise of his ecclesiastical jurisdiction, by 
the opposition of the officers of justice. The second 
asks for the aid of the secular arm to punish those 
guilty of disobedience and sacrilege. The third 
asks that the Indians may be relieved from tyrannous 
oppression, particularly from the excessive taxes 
and forced labour exacted from them. The fourth 
article solicits the transfer of all causes affecting 
the Indians from the civil to the ecclesiastical courts. 
The fifth begs the Audiencia to forbid all wars, con- 
quests, invasions of territory, and the establishment 
of Spanish haciendas in Yucatan. The sixth article 
petitions orders for the good treatment of the few 
Indians still held by the Crown in Yucatan, and 
the seventh asks that the officials of the Audiencia 
transfer to the Crown, all Indians and all villages 
affected by the royal ordinances already published. 
The answer of the Audiencia was brief and amounted 
to a denial of the Bishop's allegations. 1 Foreseeing, 
doubtless, the rupture which must inevitably follow 
the presentation of his memorial, Las Casas had al- 
ready written to Prince Philip, regent during the 
Emperor's absence from Spain. 

On the 25th of October, a letter signed by the 
Bishops of Chiapa and Nicaragua was despatched 
to Prince Philip complaining of the conduct of the 
Audiencia towards the churches, and declaring 
that since the New Laws were ignored and left in 

1 Both these documents may be found in the original Spanish 
in Appendix XII. of Fabi6's Vida y Escritos de Las Casas, Madrid, 

256 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

abeyance, the cruel treatment of the Indians had 
increased. It was alleged that the President, Mal- 
donado, and his associates possessed more than 60,000 
Indians and that he encouraged his governors in 
every kind of tyranny and robbery of the natives, 
for all of which the too compliant Audiencia neglected 
to provide any remedy. The destitute and helpless 
condition of the bishops and clergy was set forth, 
and they were described as the only faithful subjects 
whom the sovereign had in those regions, for all 
the other royal officials were solely occupied with 
their own interests and in opposing the clergy in 
the discharge of their pastoral duties. The two 
bishops urged upon the Prince to liberate all the 
Indians absolutely and immediately, as the only 
means to stop the growing evil. The more to im- 
press the Prince with the independent spirit of the 
colonial officials in ignoring royal orders and violating 
the express provisions of the New Laws, the bishops 
affirmed that most of them — with but few exceptions 
— were even inclined to independence and were 
secretly as much rebels as those in Peru. An in- 
crease in the number of bishops was asked of the 
Prince, with new dioceses in Yucatan and Chiapa, 
which were too extensive for one bishop to 
govern. It plainly appears in this letter that the 
writers were aware that the Audiencia had written, 
asking that a metropolitan judge should be sent 
out with superior powers of jurisdiction to hold them 
in check, but far from opposing this project, they 
agreed to it, suggesting, however, that he should be 
a papal legate and that meanwhile, until such a one 

Audiencia of the Confines 257 

could arrive, some one of the bishops should be 
deputed to hear appeals and decide cases with arch- 
episcopal powers. 

The scandalous affair of the Dean in Ciudad Real 
was also recounted to the Prince and some displeasure 
expressed that the Bishop of Guatemala, Marroquin, 
should have seen fit to receive this rebellious priest 
in his diocese. Priests, however, were so scarce, 
that any one who could say a mass and baptise a 
pagan, no matter what his defects of character or 
conduct might be, was apt to be welcomed. 

On the 15th of November, Las Casas addressed a 
letter to the India Council repeating his grave charges 
against Maldonado and explaining the reasons why 
he connived at resistance to the New Laws. 

Simultaneously the Audiencia likewise wrote to 
the Council giving their version of the situation. 
This letter was not signed by the licentiate Herrera, 
one of the auditors, who afterwards wrote to the 
Emperor, explaining and justifying his abstention, 
by saying that he disapproved of the violent language 
used against the bishops and did not share the views 
of his associates concerning them. Although he 
found Las Casas over-zealous, he considered that the 
Indians were harshly treated and that the Audiencia 
failed to protect them against oppression. They 
would even be better off in slavery than they were 
in their present condition, for then at least their 
owners might care for them. 

Perhaps nothing could more completely vindicate 
Las Casas than the contents of this letter. 1 Herrera 

1 Fabi6, Vida y Escritos, Appendix XIV. 


2 5$ Bartholomew de Las Casas 

was almost alone, however, in siding with the Bishop, 
for even those of the colonists whose temporal in- 
terests were not at stake in the question of liberating 
the Indians, were unwilling to antagonise the Au- 
diencia and to face the condemnation of their fellow- 
citizens. Even the Bishop of Guatemala, who had 
formerly been a close friend and warm sympathiser, 
proved unequal to the pressure brought to bear 
upon him. He deserted his fellow-bishop, and his 
letter of August 17, 1545, to the Emperor, was 
singularly unworthy of his episcopal character, 
especially when dealing with one of equal dignity to 
his own. 1 

At this juncture, news of the gravest and most 
disquieting nature reached Las Casas from Canon 
Juan Perera, whom he had left as Vicar-General at 
Ciudad Real during his own absence. Armed with 
powers granted by the town authorities, Luis de 
Torre Medinilla and the alguacil mayor, Diego 
Garcia, had presented themselves to the Canon to 
institute an inquiry into the cases in which the 
Bishop had ordered absolution to be refused, found- 
ing their action upon the terms of Alexander VI. 's 
Bull, which gave the Indies to the kings of Castile; 
from the terms of the Bull they deduced the right 
of conquest and the disposal of the persons and pro- 
perty of the conquered natives. 

The Canon stood firm, however, declaring that he 
could only grant absolution to those who released 
their slaves and restored — as far as possible — their 
ill-gotten profits. They asked that his answer should 

1 Fabie\ Appendix XV. 

Events at Ciudad Real 259 

be given them in writing, as they wished to refer 
it to the Pope, to which the Canon agreed on condi- 
tion that he be allowed thirty days in which to prepare 
a properly expressed statement. The period fixed 
elapsed without the authorities again asking for the 
document, for they had devised a new plan to over- 
reach the Bishop. They offered the Canon the keys 
of the church if he would accept them as curate, 
abandoning his character as Vicar-General of the 
Bishop, promising him a generous salary and other 
advantages if he would agree. The Canon did not 
agree but reported the situation faithfully to Las 
Casas, who thus learned that his spiritual subjects 
were in open rebellion against his authority. 

The Audiencia had ended by agreeing to send an 
auditor to Ciudad Real to see that the New Laws 
were executed, and a gentleman of Santiago de 
Nicaragua wrote the news of this decision to the 
Council saying, "The Bishop is returning to this 
country to complete the destruction of this unhappy 
city, bringing with him an auditor to still further 
tax the country. We don't know how it is that your 
lordships do not remedy such great evils." An 
open council was held on December 15, 1545, which 
was attended by all the householders of the town, 
and upon opening the sitting, the secretary called 
attention to the fact that the Bishop had been exer- 
cising his episcopal authority without having shown 
the required papal bulls or royal cedulas to the 
Council; moreover he had introduced novel doc- 
trines, reserving certain cases for absolution, con- 
cerning which, the Emperor's final decision had not 

260 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

yet been received in reply to the petition addressed 
to His Majesty; as it was evident to them all that 
the Bishop's ideas, if acceded to by the colonists, 
would result in the total ruin of them all and a 
general rebellion of the Indians, it was incumbent 
upon them to notify the Bishop that he must follow 
the example of other bishops in the colonies, aban- 
doning his novelties until the return of the procura- 
tor, who had been sent to Spain to present the 
colonists' appeal on these matters, when the Em- 
peror's decision would be made known; any distur- 
bances which might arise from the present unsettled 
state of feeling must be laid to the Bishop's charge. 
These sentiments encountered general approval, and 
it was unanimously decided that should Las Casas 
refuse to acquiesce in them, they would refuse to 
receive him as their lawful bishop and would suppress 
his tithes. This last decision was published and a 
fine of one hundred castellanos imposed on any one 
violating it. 

Fray Tomas de la Torre learned of these decisions 
and sent from Cinacatlan, where he then was, to 
warn a lay brother, Fray Pedro Martin, and a servant 
of the Bishop who were in Cuidad Real, and to ad- 
vise them to put the Bishop's books and household 
goods in a place of safety, for he feared that in the 
excitement, popular resentment might burst all 
bounds and everything belonging to Las Casas 
might be destroyed. His warning was not unwar- 
ranted, for the two men were obliged to fortify 
themselves as best they could in the sacristy of the 
church, where they were attacked at midnight by a 

Las Casas Returns 261 

body of men, who were determined to expel them 
from the town. After besieging them in vain for 
some time, the attacking party left, intending to 
return by daylight, but the besieged took advantage 
of their absence to escape and managed to reach 
Cinacatlan barefoot, where their account of the state 
of things in the town greatly increased the anxiety 
of the friars. 

While these turbulent events were happening, Las 
Casas had arrived at the Dominican monastery at 
Copanabastla on his way to Ciudad Real, where it 
was his intention to celebrate Christmas in his ca- 
thedral ; he took the precaution of sending a trusty 
messenger ahead, who brought back a full account 
of the decisions of the Council and the preparations 
for resisting the Bishop's entrance. On his way back 
to Copanabastla this messenger passed by Cinacatlan 
and told the friars of the Bishop's whereabouts, so 
they also wrote him full information of all that had 
happened and the kind of reception awaiting him 
in the city. 

The citizens of Ciudad Real were also kept in- 
formed of the Bishop's approach and, with unswerv- 
ing resolution, began to take their measures to stop 
his advance unless he accepted their conditions ; pick- 
ets were established at different points of the road to 
give warning of his approach. Singular indeed was 
the activity displayed in arming as large a force 
of men as could be mustered, to oppose this aged 
monk who, like his apostolic forebears, came alone, 
on foot, with a staff in his hand and neither purse 
nor scrip. 

262 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Although there were not wanting those among the 
friars who counselled him not to brave the popular 
fury, Las Casas refused to follow their advice, saying: 
"If I do not go to Ciudad Real, I banish myself 
voluntarily from my own church and it may be said 
of me, with reason, the wicked fleeth, when no 
man pursueth. How do we know that they want 
to kill me and that the sentinels are placed for 
this express purpose? I do not doubt the truth 
of what the fathers at Cinacatlan say, but there 
are our Lord's words to his disciples when they 
sought to deter him from returning to Judea, 
because they [the Jews] had sought to kill him 
the day before. The day has twelve hours, in 
each one of which, or in each minute or in each 
instant, the minds of men may change. If I do 
not enter into my church, of whom may I com- 
plain to the King and the Pope for putting me 
out of it?" 

The Bishop's serenity was as perfect as his resolu- 
tion was unchangeable, and, gathering his scapular 
in his hand, he rose from his chair and set out on 
his journey, amidst the tears and remonstrances 
of the friars. Upon reaching the first post of 
sentinels he found the men off their guard, as a 
report had spread that he had abandoned his inten- 
tion to advance. The Indians, when they recognised 
him, completely forgot the orders they had received 
from their Spanish masters, and in mingled joy at 
seeing their beloved Bishop again and distress at 
being there under such duty, they threw themselves 
at his feet, weeping, protesting, and imploring his 

Las Casas Returns 263 

forgiveness for their compulsory part in opposing 
him. x 

Knowing that the poor creatures would pay 
dearly for their neglect of orders, Las Casas had 
them bound, as though he had surprised and cap- 
tured them. 

That night Ciudad Real was shaken by a terrible 
earthquake which drove the frightened people into 
the public square. Talking amongst themselves, 
some declared that this upheaval heralded the Bis- 
hop's approach and was the beginning of the des- 
truction he would bring upon their town. 

1 " Y era donoso el modo de la arenga que cada uno abracado 
con los pies del Obispo dezia en lengua Mexicana, que es muy 
significativa de afectos." — Remesal, lib. vii., cap. 8. 




AT dawn Las Casas entered the city unnoticed 
and reached his cathedral, from whence he 
sent Father Nicola Galiano, one of the clergy, 
to notify the Council of his arrival and that he was 
awaiting them. The Bishop's arrival, did in reality, 
cause a greater disturbance than the earthquake. 
The members of the Council debated as to what was 
now to be done ; the Bishop was in the city and in 
his cathedral, despite their efforts to exclude him. 
Finally it was decided to go in a body to the church, 
where they seated themselves as though for a sermon. 
When the Bishop entered from the sacristy to speak 
to them, no one rose or showed any of the customary 
marks of respect. The notary immediately read the 
"requirement" it had been their intention to present 
before Las Casas was admitted to the city, omitting 
however the passages which denied his authority. 

Las Casas replied to this with great benevolence, 
saying that as he was ready even to shed his blood 
for them, he had no intention of interfering with 
their properties except in so far as was necessary to 
prevent sin against God and their neighbour: he 
exhorted them to consider matters calmly and not 


Opposition to Las Casas 265 

to allow themselves to be carried away by irreflection. 
His manner, as well as the sense of this speech, were 
surprisingly conciliatory, but one of the council, less 
impressed by the persuasive eloquence of the Bishop, 
observed from his place that as Las Casas was but 
a private individual, he had presumed too far in 
summoning such an important body as the council, 
composed of the most illustrious gentlemen of the 
colony, to come to meet him, instead of going himself 
to them. The Bishop, with much dignity, answered ; 
"Look you, sir, — and all of you in whose name he 
has spoken, — when I wish to ask anything from your 
estates, I will go to your houses to speak with you; 
but when I have to speak with you concerning 
God's service and what touches your souls and con- 
sciences, it is for me to send and call you to come to 
wherever I may be, and it is for you to come trooping 
to me, if you are Christians." Nobody ventured to 
reply to this rebuke and the Bishop, rising im- 
mediately withdrew, towards the sacristy. Then the 
notary of the council approached him respectfully, 
saying that he had a petition to present on be- 
half of the townspeople, which there was no need 
to read as it merely asked that they should be 
treated as a Christian people and have confessors 
appointed to grant them absolution. The Bishop 
assented, but as he named the Canon Juan Perera 
and the Dominicans, who all notoriously shared 
his views on the question in dispute, the council 
demurred, saying that they were unacceptable. 
The Bishop therefore named a priest from Guatemala 
and a Mercedarian friar, whose sentiments he knew 

266 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

to be in harmony with his own, though they had 
taken no part in the controversies and hence their 
opinion had never been publicly manifested. Both 
were men of exemplary piety and zeal in their 
ministry. Even Fray Vicente Ferrer, who accom- 
panied the Bishop, was unaware of the real sym- 
pathies of the two confessors, and fearing his 
superior was unwittingly making a blunder, he 
tugged at his vestments saying: "Let your lord- 
ship rather die than do this." 

Immediately those present broke forth into im- 
precations on Fray Vicente and all but maltreated 
him, in the midst of which uproar, the Mercedarian 
friars, who had heard of the Bishop's return, appeared 
in the church to welcome him. The disturbance 
was somewhat quelled by their arrival, and they 
managed to conduct the Bishop and the offending 
Fray Vicente in safety to their own convent. 

The fatigue of the journey and the excitement of 
these disturbing scenes through which he had passed 
left the aged Bishop exhausted, but his trials had 
in reality only just begun, and hardly had he seated 
himself in the cell the friars provided for him, to take 
a little bread and wine, when a fearful uproar was 
heard outside, which proved to be caused by an 
immense crowd of armed people who had surrounded 
the convent. Some of these men forced their way 
into his presence, but so great was the noise and 
clamour that the friars, who sought to learn the 
cause of this hostile demonstration, could neither 
hear nor make themselves heard. Finally it ap- 
peared that this fresh outburst was occasioned by the 

Opposition to Las Casas 267 

discovery that the Bishop had captured and bound 
their Indian sentinels as prisoners. Las Casas at 
once assumed the entire blame, explaining exactly 
how he had surprised them and why he had bound 
them. A storm of vituperation greeted his explana- 
tion — all semblance of respect, either for his age or 
office, was abandoned — and one taunted the protector 
of the Indians with himself tying them up and drag- 
ing them three leagues. 1 Amidst all these reproaches 
and insults Las Casas replied to one of his tormentors 
saying: "I do not wish, sir, to answer you, so as not 
to take from God the task of punishing you, for 
the insult you offer is not to me but to God. " 

While this scene of violence was proceeding inside 
the Bishop's cell, his negro servant Juanillo was being 
baited in the courtyard where some one who accused 
him of tying the Indians, gave him a thrust with 
his pike, which laid him, wounded, on the ground. 
The friars rushed to the rescue of the unfortunate 
negro and two of the younger monks finally suc- 
ceeded in getting all the armed men out of their 

All these riotous happenings had taken place 
between dawn and nine o'clock, and so true was the 
Bishop's saying that in each hour of the twelve, men 
changed their minds, that before noon order was 
not only entirely established, but the extraordinary 
spectacle was offered of the members of the same 
council who had insulted and outraged the Bishop, 

1 One Pedro de Pardo exclaimed: " Here you see the world! 
The saviour of the Indians binds the Indians, and will send 
petitions against us to Spain saying we maltreated them," 

268 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

coming in great humility to the convent, accompanied 
by the alcaldes, without their wands of office or 
their swords, to beg his forgiveness and to acknow- 
ledge him as their rightful Bishop. Not content with 
this act of reparation, they carried him in procession 
from the convent to the house of Pedro Orozco de 
Acevedo, one of the principal citizens, where an 
apartment was prepared for his habitation. To 
complete this transformation and illustrate even 
more fully the vagaries of the human temper, they 
determined to celebrate his arrival by holding a 
grand tournament in his honour, the day after 
Christmas. Remesal does not say whether this 
form of festivity met with the Bishop's approval, but 
it may be permitted to imagine that had he been 
consulted, he would have found some more fit 
means for celebrating the reconciliation. 

Las Casas was probably not at all duped by the 
sudden conversion of his enemies, which was indeed 
more indicative of a mercurial and capricious tem- 
perament than of a sincere desire to make amends 
for their conduct: the real reason of these sudden 
demonstrations must be sought in the fears that 
were aroused in the minds of the better citizens, of 
the punishment sure to fall upon them, when the 
news of their actions should reach Spain. 

Proofs of their bad faith are not far to seek. 
Even while the festivities were preparing, a body of 
men rode off to Cinacatlan where they robbed and 
terrorised the Indians, bullied and threatened the 
frairs, and finally returned with great rejoicings to 
Ciudad Real. The friars being in no way deceived, 

Opposition to Las Casas 269 

for they also understood but too well the volatile 
character of the Spaniards, took the precaution of 
provisioning the Bishop, so that he might not be 
starved out when popular resentment should again 
nullify the present reconciliation. 

The Indian porters who were to carry these 
provisions, were so fearful of being set upon and 
beaten or even killed by the Spaniards, that it was 
only after much persuasion that they consented to 
deliver them: fortunately they were not molested 
and the supplies reached their destination intact. 

A short time after these events, the Auditor, Juan 
Rogel, sent by the Audiencia of the Confines, arrived 
at Ciudad Real just as the Bishop was preparing 
for his journey to Mexico where one Francisco Tello 
de Sandoval, whom the Emperor had sent as Visitor- 
General of New Spain, had convoked a meeting of all 
the bishops and prelates in America to confer upon 
the vexed questions concerning the Indians, about 
which opinion was so divided as to render hopeless 
any acceptable legislation from Madrid. The cele- 
brated Sepulveda, one of the most learned scholars 
and ablest men of his times, led the opposition to 
the doctrines of Las Casas and sustained the theory 
that servitude was the rightful and natural state 
of the Indians and that it was justifiable to subdue 
them by force to Spanish rule. 

On the 20th of November, 1545, the Emperor, in 
response to the arguments and petitions of the 
representatives of the colonists, had abrogated the 
most important articles of the New Laws — in fact 
had substantially revoked them, though this action 

270 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

was not yet known in Chiapa, where the Bishop 
received the Auditor Rogel, to whom he highly praised 
the New Laws, whose application was the object 
of Rogel's visit. The Auditor, after hearing him 
out, said: "Your lordship well knows that though 
these New Laws and Ordinances were framed in 
Valladolid by the agreement of such grave personages, 
— as your lordship and I witnessed — one of the 
reasons which has rendered them so hateful in the 
Indies has been the fact that your lordship had a 
hand in proposing and framing them: for the con- 
querors consider your lordship so prejudiced against 
them, that they believe that what you obtain for the 
natives is not so much for love of the Indians as 
for hatred of them. Entertaining such a suspicion, 
they would feel it more, were I to deprive them while 
your lordship is present, than the loss itself of their 
slaves and estates; Sefior Don Francisco Tello de 
Sandoval has summoned your lordship to this meet- 
ing of prelates which takes place in Mexico and I 
would be glad if you would prepare for your journey 
and hasten your departure, for until your lordship 
is gone I can do nothing. I do not want it said that 
I am doing what is necessary out of respect, as 
everything would thereby be lost." 

This plain speaking, in which Las Casas recognised 
much truth, convinced him that by remaining, he 
would only retard the cause he desired to help, so he 
quickly completed his preparations and left Ciudad 
Real in the first week of Lent in 1546, hardly a year 
after his first entrance into it. His departure was 
signalised by some demonstrations of sympathy, 


He Leaves Ciudad Real 271 

and a few people accompanied him as far as Cinacat- 
lan, where he remained for several days counselling 
with the friars concerning the stand to be taken on 
Indian matters in the council or synod he was going 
to attend in Mexico. 

As the other American bishops disapproved of his 
action in refusing the sacraments to slave-holders 
and the Visitor General, Tello de Sandoval, had 
already written him a sharp letter of reproof for his 
imprudence in obstinately persisting in his views 
despite the fact that he was alone in holding them, 
formidable opposition would have to be encountered 
in the synod. Neither Las Casas nor his Dominican 
brethren were at all dismayed by their isolation, 
nor did they for a moment consider the possibility 
of abandoning or even relaxing their convictions. 
The Canon, Juan Perera, who had stood loyally 
by his Bishop, assisted at these conferences, but as 
he had previously expressed contrary opinions, he 
desired to make an act of public reparation for his 
past errors. He returned to Ciudad Real especially 
to preach a sermon of retraction and to read a 
paper prepared for him by Fray Tomas de la Torre, 
containing a full vindication of his Bishop's opinions. 
This recantation produced no small effect upon the 
colonists, some of whom were moved to express regret 
for their part in the maltreatment of Las Casas and 
the friars. This business terminated, the Canon 
rejoined Las Casas at Cinacatlan and accompanied 
him to Mexico. 

Before setting forth on his last journey, the Bishop 
transferred his property to the Dominicans and, 

272 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

though there was a conditional clause in the deed 
of gift, there was no reservation in the donor's 
mind, for he knew that he was leaving Chiapa for 
ever and would never again govern a diocese. Ac- 
companied by the friars Rodrigo Ladrada, Vicente 
Ferrer, and Luis Cancer and by the Canon Perera, 
he journeyed to Antequera in the province of Oaxaca 
— the marquisate of Cortes — where he was received 
in the Dominican convent. But so intense and 
wide-spread was the feeling against him that both 
the Viceroy and the Visitor-General wrote to him 
that he should not advance farther towards Mexico, 
until they summoned him, lest his appearance might 
provoke a disturbance. The march of a hostile 
army upon a defenceless city could hardly have 
stirred up greater excitement than the arrival of 
this aged Bishop with his four humble companions. 
He finally entered the city of Mexico at ten o'clock 
one morning, and not only was there no disturbance 
of the peace when he was recognised, but his followers 
even heard some comments of admiration for him 
as he passed through the streets to the Dominican 
monastery where he was to lodge. 

The very day of his arrival, Las Casas betrayed his 
lack of those conciliatory qualities, without which no 
man can negotiate debatable questions with any hope 
of success. During his several visits to Spain, where 
he handled delicate questions with consummate skill, 
he had shown tact in seeking to disarm opposition 
and conciliate opponents, but in Mexico he dis- 
played no wordly wisdom whatsoever. He replied 
to the message of the Viceroy and the auditors 

The Mexican Synod 273 

who sent to welcome him, that he would not visit 
them as they were excommunicated because they 
had cut off the hand of a priest in Antequera. 

The news of this message was spread throughout 
the city and still further inflamed the popular ire 
against him. Just at a time when so much depended 
upon winning supporters to his side and conciliating, 
as far as possible, the conflicting principles of the 
contending parties, Las Casas alienated the powerful 
Viceroy and the auditors, and rendered himself 
inaccessible to any possible overtures from the more 
reasonable and moderate men of the opposition, 
whom it should have been his first duty to placate 
by every possible concession. 

The synod or council was composed of the five 
bishops of Mexico, Chiapa, Guatemala, Oaxaca, and 
Mechoacan, with possibly a sixth from Tlazcala; 
besides these, there were the prelates and chief 
theologians of the religious orders, and finally, all 
the learned men of the colony. The outcome of 
their deliberations was contained in eight proposi- 
tions, of which the five principal ones were as follows : 

1. All infidels, of whatsoever sect or religion they 
may be or whatever may be their sins, hold and possess 
in conformity with the natural and divine law and the 
law of nations, the property they acquire without pre- 
judice to others ; and likewise their principalities, king- 
doms, estates, lordships, dignities, and jurisdictions. 

2. Although four different classes of infidels 
exist, there is but one method instituted by divine 
providence for teaching the true religion, namely, 
persuading the understanding by reasoning and 


274 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

attracting the will by gentleness. This is common 
to all men in the world, without regard to difference 
of errors or sects, or corruption of morals. 

3 . The sole and final cause why the Apostolic See 
granted supreme sovereignty and imperial juris- 
diction over the Indies to the Kings of Castile and 
Leon was the preaching of the Gospel, the spread 
of the Christian religion, and the conversion of the 
nations of those regions, and not to increase their 
dignity or to make them richer princes than they were. 

4. The Holy See, in granting the said supreme 
sovereignty, did not intend to deprive the native 
sovereigns and rulers of their estates, lordships, 
jurisdiction, honours, and dignities, nor did it intend 
to give the Kings of Castile and Leon any license by 
which the spread of the Gospel should be impeded and 
the conversion of the people of those regions be 

5. The said sovereigns of Castile, who offered and 
bound themselves of their own choice to see that 
the faith was preached and the Indians converted, 
are obliged by divine precept to bear the necessary 
expenses for accomplishing these ends. 

These were the most important of the eight articles 
approved by the synod, and they were grounded 
upon and defended by a multitude of arguments 
drawn from the Fathers and General Councils: they 
were not adopted without opposition, and every 
point was fought over in endless debates, for the 
conquerors and all holders of encomiendas contested 
stoutly for what they held to be their rights. The 
synod also established the conditions on which the 

The Mexican Synod 275 

sacraments should be administered to the colonists, 
and addressed a full report of the proceedings to the 
Emperor, soliciting his confirmation and the royal 
authority for executing all that had been enacted. 

Although Las Casas had several times essayed 
to bring the question of slavery before the council, 
no direct or explicit decision was given on that im- 
portant point, and as his efforts were embarrassing, 
the Viceroy quickly told him that reasons of State 
had compelled him to defer a definite solution of 
that question. Far from quieting Las Casas, this 
information aroused his zeal all the more, and as a 
hearing in the council was denied him, he preached 
a few days later when the Viceroy was present, taking 
for his text this significant passage from the thir- 
tieth chapter of the prophet Isaias : ' ' For this is a 
rebellious people; lying children, children that will 
not hear the law of God. Who say to the seers, see 
not ; and to the prophets, prophesy not right things un- 
to us ; speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits. ' ' 

The sermon was not without the intended effect, 
and the Viceroy began to regret the exclusion of the 
subject of slavery from the council : as a compromise, 
he consented that separate meetings should be held 
in the convent of San Domingo to consider this 
subject, offering to transmit to the Emperor the 
conclusions adopted. Las Casas was ably seconded 
in the proceedings of these meetings, by Fray Luis 
Cancer, and a declaration was drawn up declaring 
that the Indians — with few exceptions — had been 
unjustly enslaved and that those who held them 
were bound to set them free: slave-holders were de- 

276 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

scribed as tyrants and all personal services exacted 
from the defenceless natives were condemned. Those 
who took part in these meetings and signed the de- 
cisions, were destitute of any means to give effect 
to them, but they adopted measures to publish and 
distribute copies of them throughout the colonies, in 
the hope that they might influence public opinion 
in the right direction. 

Las Casas named the Canon, Juan Perera, as his 
Vicar-General in the diocese of Chiapa, on the ninth 
of November, 1546, and at the same time appointed 
as confessors the friars Tomas Casillas, Tomas de 
la Torre, Domingo de Arana, and Alonso de Villabra, 
to whom he furnished copies of the instructions 
approved by the council of Mexico, in which were 
comprised the twelve rules. The colonists appealed 
to the Emperor against the instructions, which they 
held to be unduly severe and onerous for them, and, 
in reply to their petition, a royal order dated in 
Valladolid on the twenty-eighth of November, 1542, 
was received by the Audiencia of Mexico ordering a 
copy of the disputed regulations to be sent to Spain 
for examination. 

In the early part of the year 1547, Las Casas 
arrived in Vera Cruz to embark for Spain, and after 
some delay there, until a ship could be found for the 
voyage, left the shores of America for the last time. 1 

1 The number of voyages made by Las Casas is variously 
estimated. Llorente counts seven, or fourteen crossings on the 
Atlantic. It seems beyond cavil however that Bartholomew 
did not make his first voyage with his father in 1498, as asserted 
by Llorente and other authorities, so this calculation must be 
reduced by one at least. 



REJECTED by his flock in Chiapa, abused and 
denounced by the Spanish colonists in 
America, the venerable Bishop's arrival in 
his native country was preceded by accusations 
intended to prejudice the young Prince, Don Philip, 
who was regent during the Emperor's absence, 
against him. Long years of championship of an 
unpopular cause rendered him impervious to these 
baseless attacks of his enemies. At a time of life 
when most men think to rest, Las Casas prepared 
himself with undiminished vigour to continue the 
struggle in the cause of freedom. Upon his arrival 
in Spain, he repaired at once to Valladolid where 
the court was usually in residence, only to find that 
Don Philip had gone to hold a Cortes in the kingdom 
of Aragon . With his habitual promptness , the B ishop 
followed him thither, and was received with great 
kindness by the Prince, who, after listening atten- 
tively to all that he had to recount, wrote to the 
Dominicans in Chiapa commending their conduct 
and offering to send more men of their Order to 
reinforce them, if they were required. 


278 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

The Indians were ever uppermost in the mind of 
Las Casas and he likewise obtained that the Prince 
should write letters to the caciques in Chiapa and 
Tuzulutlan, who had become Christians, congratulat- 
ing them on their conversion, praising their zeal, of 
which the Bishop had informed him, and urging them 
to follow the counsels of their Dominican friends. 
To celebrate his pacific victory in the " Land of War," 
Las Casas also had the sinister name Tuzulutlan 
officially changed to that of Vera Paz or True Peace. 

The formal resignation of Las Casas from the 
diocese of Chiapa was made known to the Spanish 
Ambassador in Rome, Don Diego Hurtado de Men- 
doza, in a letter from the Emperor dated September 
11, 1550, with instructions to announce the same 
to the Pope and to present the name of Fray Tomas 
Casillas for the vacant bishopric. 

Mention has been made of the Confesionario, 
or book of instructions written by the Bishop of 
Chiapa and distributed to the clergy of his diocese. 
In this little manual, Las Casas demonstrated that 
the armed invasion of America by the Spaniards 
and the conquest of the various countries were 
contrary to all right and justice : he argued that the 
Bull of donation given by Alexander VI. charged the 
Spanish sovereigns with the right, or rather the duty, 
of converting the inhabitants of the New World to 
Christianity ; once their conversion was effected, they 
might be induced, if possible, by gentle and pacific 
means to place themselves under Spanish rule. 
Arguing from these premises, the Bishop directed 
his clergy to refuse absolution and the sacraments 



iOp i 


he mind of 

the Prince 

ipa and 


zeal, of 




that of Vera 1 

on of Las Ca;- 

)wn to tl 
Juan Gines de Sepulveda a( j { 

From the engraving by J. Barcelon, after the draw- 

ing of J. Maca. 



place ti: 
to refuse 



Vorld to 

acted, they 

le and pacific 

nder Spanish, rule. 

he Bishop directed 

and the sacraments 


The Thirty Propositions 279 

to all who refused to liberate their slaves or continued 
to oppress and rob the natives. 

Reduced to a formula the doctrine of Las Casas 
may be summed up: Convert the Indians first and 
they will afterwards become Spanish subjects; as 
against the contention of his adversaries that they 
must first be conquered, after which their conversion 
would follow. 

His enemies were not slow in seizing upon these 
definitions and in twisting them into a denial of the 
sovereign rights of the Crown. Formal denuncia- 
tions of the teachings contained in the Confesionario 
were laid before the India Council, 1 and that body 
having summoned Las Casas to explain his doctrines 
in writing, he submitted an exposition of the con- 
tents of his book, in the form of thirty propositions, 
the substance of which may be summarised as 
follows : 2 

1 . The power and authority which the Pope holds 
from Jesus Christ, extends over all men, whether 
they be Christians or infidels, as far as everything 
touching their salvation is concerned. Their exercise 
should, however, be different over pagans than over 
those who have received or have refused to receive 
the true faith. 

1 It has been stated that Las Casas was recalled from America 
by the Council for the express purpose of answering this accusa- 
tion and that he came back to Spain almost as a prisoner, but 
I find no sufficient authority for supposing this to be the case. 

2 Before distributing this manual to his clergy, Las Casas had 
taken the precaution of submitting it to six of the most learned 
doctors of theology in Spain. The approbation of these au- 
thorities guaranteed the soundness of his doctrine. 

280 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

2 . The primacy of the Pope imposes upon him the 
obligation to diffuse the Christian religion throughout 
the world and to see that the Gospel is preached to 
the heathen wherever they will receive it. 

3 . The Pope is bound to choose proper missioners 
for such propaganda. 

4. It is evident that Christian rulers are his most 
suitable and efficient assistants in this work. 

5. The Pope is free to invite or justified in oblig- 
ing Christian rulers to lend their help, by the exercise 
of their power, by the expenditure of money, and 
by sending suitable men to conduct missions. 

6. The Pope and the Christian sovereigns should 
act together for this end, in agreement with one 

7. The Pope may distribute heathen lands among 
Christian rulers, designating where each is to labour 
for the conversion of the infidels. 

8. Such distribution should be made, however, 
for the purpose of ensuring the instruction and the 
conversion of the pagan nations but not at all to 
increase the territories of the Christian sovereign 
or to augment his revenues, titles, and honours, at the 
expense of the natives. 

9. It may follow that Christian princes may 
incidentally derive some profit from this conversion 
of such infidels, and all such may be permitted to 
them, but the primary object must be the propaga- 
tion of the Faith, the extension of the Church, and 
the service of God. 

10. Native kings and rulers hold their authority 
and jurisdiction by a just title and have a right to the 

The Thirty Propositions 281 

obedience of their lawful subjects, nor should they 
be deposed or violently treated. 

11. Injustice, cruelty, and every form of wicked- 
ness are produced by the violation of this law. 

12. Neither idolatry nor any kind of sin justifies 
Christians in usurping the authority of native rulers 
or in seizing the lands and goods of their subjects. 

13. As long as such infidels have not opposed the 
propagation of the Gospel and have not refused 
to receive the Faith preached to them, no Christian 
tribunal or judge has a right to punish them for the 
practice of idolatry or for the commission of any sins, 
no matter how heinous. 

14. The New World was discovered during the 
pontificate of Alexander VI., hence that pontiff was 
obliged to designate some Christian prince under 
whose protection the propagation of the Faith should 
be carried on. 

15. Since the Catholic sovereigns of Spain, 
Ferdinand and Isabella, had protected and aided 
Columbus in making his discovery, and had, more- 
over, expelled the Mahometans from their land, the 
Pope perceived the special claims they had to receive 
this privilege, and the great advantages to religion 
of confiding this mission to them. 

16. The Pope, having authority to grant such a 
privilege, has power likewise to annul, revoke, or 
suspend it for just cause; or he may transfer it to 
some other ruler and forbid all others to interfere. 

17. The jurisdiction over the Indies held by the 
sovereigns of Spain is lawful. 

18. The native rulers in the Indies are therefore 

282 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

obliged to submit to the jurisdiction of the Spanish 

19. Once the native rulers have voluntarily and 
freely accepted the Faith and been baptised Christ- 
ians, they become bound by another title than before 
to acknowledge the Spanish sovereignty. 

20. The law of God imposes on the Spanish 
sovereigns this duty of selecting proper persons 
and sending them to preach Christianity to the na- 
tives, and to neglect nothing that may ensure their 

21. They share this obligation with the Pope 
and, before the conversion of the natives has been 
accomplished, they have the same power over them 
as has His Holiness. 

22. The Catholic Faith may be best spread 
throughout the New World by imitating the example 
of our Lord in establishing His religion upon earth. 
The natives are submissive, docile people, who may 
be won by kindness, charity, and good examples 
of holy living. They should be encouraged and 
favoured, and treated as brothers. 

23. The Romans, Mahometans, Moors, and Turks 
have propagated their doctrines by the sword, but 
such means are tyrannical, and it is blasphemy for 
Christians to imitate such cruelties ; what has already 
been done in the Indies has caused the natives to 
believe the Christian God to be the most merciless 
and cruel of all deities. 

24. It is only natural that the Indians should 
defend their countries from armed invasion, and 
thus they resist the propagation of the Faith. 

The Thirty Propositions 283 

25. The Spanish sovereigns have from the outset 
repeatedly forbidden wars, conquests, and acts of 
cruelty. Those officials who have pretended to 
act by royal authority in such wars and acts have 
lied, and the warrants they have shown are forgeries. 

26. It follows that all the wars, invasions, and con- 
quests that have been made, have been tyrannical, 
contrary to justice and authority, and hence, in 
fact, null and void : this is proven by the record of the 
proceedings in Council against all such tyrants and 
usurpers who have been found guilty. 

27. It is the duty of the Spanish sovereigns to 
maintain and re-establish all laws and usages 
amongst the Indians which are good, and that is to 
say the most of them ; those which are bad should be 
abolished, and the preaching and application of the 
Gospel is the best means for effecting this. 

28. The Devil himself could not have worked 
greater harm than have the Spaniards, by their 
tyranny and cruel greed; they have treated the 
Indians like beasts, worked them to death, and perse- 
cuted those who have wished to learn from the 
friars, even more than others. 

29. The system of giving the Indians in encomi- 
enda and repartimiento is absolutely contrary to 
the royal commands issued by Queen Isabella to 
Columbus and his successors during her reign. The 
Queen ordered all Indians who had been brought 
to Spain as slaves, to be sent back and set free. 
What would she think could she but witness the 
present state of things? The present sovereign has 
been kept in ignorance of the true condition, and his 

284 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

long journeys and absences have prevented him 
from informing himself. 

30. It follows, therefore, from these propositions 
that all the conquests, acquisitions of territory, 
invasions, and usurpations, whether by the Crown 
officials or by the colonists and individuals, are 
illegal, because all have been accomplished contrary 
to the orders of the Spanish sovereigns and in 
defiance of their authority. 1 

Without pausing to examine the origin or trace 
the development of the papal claim to dispose of the 
western hemisphere, which Las Casas admits in 
these Thirty Propositions, it should be borne in 
mind that Alexander VI. made no unusual exercise 
of his prerogative in so doing, nor was there anybody, 
whether philosopher, jurist, or statesman, who, at 
that time, contested his pretension; arguments 
which Las Casas presented as almost axiomatic are 
now obsolete, and of interest merely as illustrating 
the political doctrines of his times. He was, perhaps, 
the first to limit the exercise of the papal power by 
describing it as conditional, and in denying that 
the bull gave the sovereigns of Castile any property 
rights in the New World. According to his doctrines, 
the Pope was exercising his purely spiritual power. 
Charged by the Founder of Christianity with the 
obligation to cause the Gospel to be preached to 
every creature, he might delegate to the sovereign 
of his choice the right, or rather the duty of send- 
ing his subjects to convert the heathen within a 

1 The full text of the Thirty Propositions is published in 
Vol. i. of Llorente's CEuvres de Las Casas, pp. 290-3 1 1 . 

The Thirty Propositions 285 

prescribed portion of the Indies — but for no other 
purpose. Equally clear is the limitation he places 
to the action of the prince. The latter receives no 
authorisation from the Pope to invade, occupy, or 
govern territory in America. His mission is exclu- 
sively religious, and any advantage accruing to him- 
self must be merely incidental. Since he may not 
rightfully use force to establish his rule over the 
Indians, the rights of sovereignty conferred by the 
Bull, only become effective in cases where the native 
rulers, after their conversion, voluntarily acknow- 
ledge them. 

In these definitions, Las Casas had gone far, but 
his adversaries despite their subtlety were impo- 
tent either to force or inveigle him into a position, 
where even constructive heresy and disloyalty might 
be imputed to him. More adroit than they, he skil- 
fully evaded their snares, without sacrificing one 
jot of his contention. The India Council was well 
satisfied with his defence of the Conjesionario, but 
the resentment of his enemies was inflamed the more 
by his victory, and it was felt to be more than ever 
necessary to fix upon some one able to refute his 
arguments and discredit him in the estimation of 
statesmen and theologians. 

One of the foremost of Spanish theologians and 
jurists at that period was Gines de Sepulveda, whose 
distinction as a master of Latin style had caused 
Erasmus to describe him as the Spanish Livy. Born 
in Cordoba of noble parents in 1490, he had passed 
many years in Italy and had but recently returned 
to Spain, where he was named royal historiographer 

286 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

by Charles V. During his sojourn in Rome, Sepul- 
veda had published a dialogue entitled Democrates,. 
in which he sought to prove that war was consonant 
with the doctrines of Christianity: " De convenientia 
disciplines militaris cum cristiana religione." 

Whether or no Sepulveda was deliberately chosen 
by the opponents of Las Casas to dispute the Bishop's 
propositions in defence of the Indians, does not 
positively appear, 1 but just before the latter returned 
from America, he composed a second dialogue, 
Democrates II. De justis belli causis apud Indios, 
in which he upheld the right of the Spaniards to 
make war on the Indians. This dialogue was ap- 
parently written in Valladolid and called forth an 
episcopal reprimand from the Bishop of Segovia. 
The fraternal admonition of the Bishop, instead of 
disposing of the subject, provoked a reply from 
Sepulveda in the form of an Apologia of Democrates II. 

The India Council having refused to permit the 
publication of this dialogue, Sepulveda petitioned 
the Emperor, who referred the matter to the Council 
of Castile. That body having given its assent, the 
Emperor signed a royal cedula at Aranda de Duero, 
authorising the printing of the book. 

In the midst of the interest excited by this con- 
troversy, Las Casas arrived in Spain. He prevailed 
upon the Council of Castile to reconsider its decision, 
and to submit Sepulveda' s work to the universities 
of Salamanca and Alcala, for an opinion on the 
soundness of his doctrine. The reply of the uni- 

i Llorente states that this was the case. — CEuvres de Las Casas, 
torn. L, p. S33- 

Debate with Sepulveda 287 

versities was adverse, and the authorisation to pub- 
lish was consequently annulled. 1 

Prohibited from publishing his book in Spain, 
Sepulveda sent it to Rome where the censorship of 
the press was freer and where, in fact, the condemned 
dialogue was printed, together with the author's 
Apologia addressed to the Bishop of Segovia. An 
edition of the work was prepared in Spanish for the 
benefit of those who did not read Latin, but the Em- 
peror forbade the entrance of the one and the other 
into Spain. 

Las Casas' took but the time necessary to master 
the propositions of Sepulveda, before he seized the 
cudgels in defence of his Indians. From this 
moment the controversy took another complexion. 
Sepulveda had so far crossed weapons with learned 
theologians, men of study rather than of action, who 
carried on the dispute along purely scholastic lines 
and according to the recognised rules governing 
debates between scholars. 

His new adversary, who was the best informed 
man in the world on the special subject under dis- 
pute, transferred the debate from academic to 
practical ground, of every foot of which he was mas- 
ter. Though inferior in learning to the polished 
humanist, who affected to regard him as a furious 
fanatic whose crude Latin shocked his scholarly 

1 In one passage of his works Sepulveda attributes the con- 
demnation of his dialogue to the intrigues of Las Casas: " Postea 
vero cum jam omnis machinationis architectus, nempe Bartho- 
lomeus Casas adesset, et doctor em animos callidissime pertrac- 
tasset, qui hujus rei gratia de longiquo quasi furiis agitatus 
advolaverat. ..." 

288 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

sensibilities, Las Casas was his match in fervid 
eloquence, overmatched him in the ardour of his 
feelings, and ended by pulverising him under the 
weight of facts he hurled upon him. 

The controversy assumed such proportions that 
the Emperor, in the fashion of the times, ordered 
the India Council to assemble in Valladolid in con- 
junction with certain theologians and scholars, to 
decide whether or no wars for conquest might be 
justly waged against the Indians. 1 Before this 
learned jury both Las Casas and Sepulveda were 
summoned to appear in 1550. 

In the first session of the assembly, Sepulveda 
stated his propositions and expounded his defence 
of them, presenting, under four heads, his reasons 
why it was lawful to make war on the Indians : 

1. Because of the gravity of their sins, particu- 
larly the practice of idolatry and other sins against 

2. Because of the rudeness of their heathen and 
barbarous natures, which oblige them to serve 
those of more elevated natures, such as the Spaniards 

3. For the spread of the faith; for their subjec- 
tion renders its preaching easier and more persuasive. 

4. On account of the harm they do to one an- 
other, killing men to sacrifice them and some, in 
order to eat them. 

These reasons were defended by their author in an 
able discourse, in which all the resources of his vast 

1 Utrum barbaris novi orbis, quos Indos hispana consuetude 
vocat, lie eat bellum inferre. 

Debate with Sepulveda 289 

learning and forensic ability were called into 

Las Casas occupied five sessions in reading his 
Historia Apologetica, after which the assembly 
directed the Emperor's confessor, Fray Domingo 
de Soto, to prepare a summary of the arguments 
of both parties, of which fourteen copies should 
be made for distribution to the members of the 

After the reading of Fray Domingo's summary, 
which was drawn up with perfect impartiality and 
great clearness, Sepulveda presented twelve objec- 
tions to the arguments of Las Casas, each of which he 
argued with great subtlety and erudition. The 
refutation of these twelve objections by Las Casas, 
closed this memorable controversy; in none of his 
writings is the character of the Protector of the 
Indians more fully revealed than in this final discourse 
before the conference at Valladolid. To give it in its 
entirety would occupy too much space in this place, 
but the following translation of the speech with which 
he introduced his twelve answers, is worthy of our 
closest attention. 

After the introductory phrases required by the 
etiquette of such debates he continued: "So enor- 
mous are the errors and scandalous propositions, 
contrary to all evangelical truth and to all Christian- 
ity that the Doctor Sepulveda has accumulated, set 
forth, and coloured with misguided zeal in the royal 
service, that no honest Christian would be surprised 
should we wish to combat him, not only with lengthy 
argument, but likewise as a mortal enemy of Christen- 


290 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

dom, an abettor of cruel tyrants, extirpator of the 
human race, and disseminator of fatal blindness 
throughout this realm of Spain. But the least we 
could do, having regard to the obligations imposed 
by the law of God, is to answer each point here 
presented, and this will complete his confusion. " 

From this vigorous opening, the Bishop went on 
to examine the nature of the Bull of donation and 
the intention of Alexander VI. in granting it. He 
demonstrated the irrefutable fact that the Catholic 
sovereigns and the Pope were in absolute agreement, 
and that the clearness of the language of the Bull 
left no room for two interpretations. The better 
to illustrate and drive home this argument, he cited 
articles from the last will of Queen Isabella, of which 
the following translation proves the truth of his 
contention : 

Forasmuch as when the islands and terra-firma dis- 
covered, or to be discovered, in the Ocean Sea, were 
granted to us by the Holy Apostolic See, our principal 
intention, when we asked the said concession from Pope 
Alexander VI. of happy memory, was to provide for 
attracting and winning to us the natives, and to convert 
them to our holy Catholic faith ; and to send to the said 
islands and terra-firma, prelates, religious, clerics, and 
other learned and God-fearing men, to instruct the in- 
habitants in the Catholic faith: and to use all necessary 
diligence in teaching them and in introducing good 
customs among them ; all this according as may be more 
fully seen in the wording of the said concession. I there- 
fore very affectionately beseech my lord the King, and 
I charge and command the said Princess, my daughter, 

Debate with Sepulveda 291 

and the said Prince, her husband, that they shall 
execute and accomplish this, making it their principal 
object, and using the greatest diligence therein. They 
shall not consent, or furnish occasion that the Indian 
natives and inhabitants of the said islands and terra- 
firma, sustain any injury, either in their persons or their 
belongings, but they shall rather order that they be 
well and justly treated. And if they [the Indians] have 
received any injury, they shall correct it and shall take 
measures to prevent what is conceded to and enjoined 
upon us by the wording of the said concession, from 
being exceeded. 

Reviewing the conditions in the colonies, Las 
Casas described the richness of the soil and the vast 
resources of the Indies, declaring that what was 
wanted there, were industrious, honest, and frugal 
emigrants, who would develop the agricultural 
sources of wealth, instead of the horde of rapacious 
adventurers and dissolute soldiery then engaged in 
depopulating and ruining them. One by one he 
stripped Sepulveda's propositions of their brilliant 
rhetoric, exposing the hollowness and sham beneath 
the specious reasoning, with which the latter sought 
to cloak his poverty of facts. Las Casas closed his 
case with the following brilliant and prophetic 
peroration : 

"The injuries and loss which have befallen the 
Crown of Castile and Leon will be visited likewise 
on all Spain, because the tyranny wrought by their 
devastations, massacres, and slaughters is so mon- 
strous, that the blind may see it, the deaf hear it, 
and the dumb recount it, while after our brief exist- 

292 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

ence, the wise shall judge and condemn it. I invoke 
all the hierarchies and choirs of angels, all the saints 
of the Celestial Court, all the inhabitants of the globe, 
and especially those who may live after me, to wit- 
ness that I free my conscience of all that has been 
done; and that I have fully exposed all these woes 
to his Majesty; and that if he abandons the govern- 
ment of the Indies to the tyranny of the Spaniards, 
they will all be lost and depopulated — as we see His- 
paniola, and other islands and three thousand leagues 
of the continent destitute of inhabitants. For these 
reasons, God will punish Spain and all her people 
with inevitable severity. So may it be! " * 

Language worthy of a saint and a statesman, in 
which there breathed the spirit of prophecy, for the 
system of government, once initiated by the Spanish 
officials, was persisted in till the end, while one by 
one the great possessions of Spain in the New World 
were torn from the mother country. In no land 
where freedom of speech was a recognised right, 
could an orator have used plainer language, and it 
shows both the Spanish civil and ecclesiastical 

1 It seems unnecessary to do more than outline the course of 
this celebrated controversy, as much space and patience would be 
required to adequately review the masterly arguments of both 
contestants, supported as they were by a formidable array of 
learning and authorities. The result of the debate is described 
by Helps as a "drawn battle," though the formal vote of the as- 
sembly was in favour of Sepulveda's propositions. The moral 
victory unquestionably belonged to Las Casas, and although his 
opponent was a defender of absolutism, the sympathies of the 
Spanish monarch were with the Bishop, and he forbade the 
publication and circulation of Sepulveda's book in Spain and 
the Indies. 

Debate with Sepulveda 293 

authorities of that age in a somewhat unfamiliar light 
that Las Casas not only escaped perilous censures 
but even won a moral victory over his talented 
opponent. What would have become of the cham- 
pion of such unpopular doctrines, attacking as he 
did the material interests of thousands of the 
greatest men in the land, had there been daily 
newspapers in those times, it is not difficult to 
imagine. Examples of the defenders of forlorn 
causes are not wanting in our own day, and the fate 
of those who lead an unpopular crusade is the pil- 
lory of the press, which spares no less than did the 
fires of the mediaeval stake. 

The discovery and conquest of the American 
dominions brought ruin to Spain as a nation ; be- 
yond the tribute of glory which those early achieve- 
ments yielded to the Spanish name, the results were 
disastrous to her power. During centuries, much 
of the best blood of her prolific people was drained 
by the Americas, so that the population of the penin- 
sula to-day is little more numerous than in the reign 
of Ferdinand and Isabella, whereas her territory and 
natural resources might maintain triple their number. 



ALTHOUGH the forensic encounter with Sepul- 
veda was the most dramatic incident in the 
latter years of the life of Las Casas after his 
return to Spain, its conclusion was not followed 
either by his disappearance or by any diminution 
of his activity as Protector of the Indians. His 
habitual residence from that time on became the 
College of San Gregorio at Valladolid, where he had 
the companionship of his devoted friend Ladrada 
and the support of an important community of his 
Order. Fray Rodrigo, who also acted as confessor 
to his old friend, would seem to have been something 
of a wag, as it is related of him that when the Bishop 
had become somewhat deaf, the confessor might be 
heard admonishing his penitent: "Don't you see, 
Bishop, that you will finish up in hell because of 
your want of zeal in defending the Indians whom 
God has placed in your charge?" 1 

1 This exhortation of Fray Ladrada has been taken seriously 
by all commentators. Quintana gravely asserts that "the rebuke 
was severe and also doubtless unjust. " It seems, however, more 
human to imagine the good friar as making a little mild fun of 
his illustrious penitent. Whatever other faults he might have 
found to reprove in Las Casas, want of zeal in defending the 
Indians was never among them. 


San Gregorio 295 

The royal India Council likewise sat in Valladolid, 
and this fact may possibly have influenced the 
indefatigable Bishop's choice of that city for his 
residence. He had made repeated efforts to obtain 
from the Council some positive proclamation or 
declaration, affirming the freedom of the Indians as 
a natural and inalienable right, and at this time, he 
succeeded in moving that somewhat lethargic body 
to express a desire for more explicit information 
on this subject, before reaching a decision. In re- 
sponse to an order from the Council, Las Casas 
wrote his treatise entitled, The Liberty of the En- 
slaved Indians (De la libertad de los Indios que han 
sido reducidos a la esclavitud) which, for greater con- 
venience, he divided into three parts. The first 
part treated of the nullity of the title on which 
such slavery was based; the second dealt with the 
duties of the Spanish sovereign towards the Indians, 
and the third was devoted to the obligations of the 
bishops of the American dioceses. 

In none of his writings are the opinions of Las 
Casas on questions of the rights of man and the 
functions of government more lucidly set forth, and 
while many of the arguments on which he rested his 
propositions, and which were consonant with the 
prevalent spirit of his times, would not secure uni- 
versal assent in our day, there is not one of the 
essential principles of his thesis, that has not since 
been recognised as inherently and indisputably just. 

His treatise opened as follows : 

I propose in this article to demonstrate three proposi- 
tions; first, that all the Indians who have been enslaved 

296 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

since the discovery of the New World, have been reduced 
to this sad condition without right or justice ; second, 
that the majority of Spaniards who hold Indian slaves, 
do so in bad faith; and third, that this imputation is 
also applicable to such Spaniards as have not acquired 
their slaves by right of repartimiento but have obtained 
them from other Indians. 

He combated the almost universally accepted 
theory that justifiable conquest conferred the right 
of enslaving the conquered, and he maintained that 
the most that might be exacted from a conquered 
people, even from those who had actively resisted, 
was recognition of the government established by the 
victorious party; taxes were justifiable and must 
be paid, and prisoners of war might be held until 
the close of hostilities, while extra burdens might be 
laid upon the country during the period of military 
occupation. Not one of these principles was at that 
time acted upon by any Christian power engaged in 
war with uncivilised nations, yet every one of them 
is now placed beyond dispute by the universally 
accepted principles of international law. 

Wars unjustly undertaken, according to Las Casas, 
could confer no rights, because right is not founded 
upon injustice, and he defined war as unjust 
when undertaken without the sanction of legitimate 
authority, or even when ordered by legitimate au- 
thority, but without sufficient motive or provoca- 
tion. This touched the question of the Indians 
very closely, for most of the Spanish invasions of 
the different islands and the countries of the main- 
land were begun without any authority from, or 

s Work. 

296 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

since the discovery of the New World, have been reduced 
to this sad condition without right or justice; second, 
that the majority of Spaniards who hold Indian slaves, 
do so in bad faith; and third, that this imputation is 
also applicable to such Spaniards as have not acquired 
their slaves by right of repartimiento but have obtained 
them from other Indians. 

He combated the almost universally accepted 
theory that justifiable conquest conferred the right 
of enslaving the conquered, and he maintained that 
the most that might be exacted from a conquered 
people, even from those who had actively resisted, 
was recognition of the government established by the 
victorious party; taxes were justifiable and must 
be paid, and prisoners of war might be held until 
the close of hostilities, while extra burdens might be 
laid upon the country during the period of military 
occupation. Not one of these principles was at that 
time acted upon by any Christian power engaged in 
war with uncivilised nations, yet every one of them 
is now placed beyond dispute by the universally 
accepted principles of international law. 

Wars unjustly undertaken, according to Las Casas, 
could confer no rights, because right is not founded 
upon injustice, and he defined war as unjust 
when undertaken without the sanction of legitimate 
authority, or even when ordered by legitimate au- 
thority, but without sufficient motive or provoca- 
tion. This touched the question of the Indians 
very closely, for most of the Spanish invasions of 
the different islands and the countries of the main- 
land were begun without any authority from, or 

-***•«&* A^tT-'/i >»*♦*•»» ^f ftriritnt »/v rtf-fc^, 


Holograph of Las Casas Giving Directions for the Publication of his Work. 


Reproduced from Thacher's " Christopher Columbus" 

Unjust Wars 297 

even the knowledge of the Spanish government. 
No Spanish sovereign ever authorised the invasion 
or conquest of any of the countries, on which their 
distant and self-styled representatives embarked, 
for motives of personal aggrandisement or in a pure 
spirit of adventure. Both Velasquez in Cuba and 
Cortes in Mexico were destitute of any royal author- 
ity for their undertakings, and only the splendour 
of their successes sufficed to condone their license, 
when they were able to confront the King with 
a profitable fait accompli. The royal instructions 
to all governors and representatives of the Spanish 
Crown were, on the contrary, rilled with injunctions 
to treat the Indians humanely, to provide for their 
conversion and instruction by pacific means, and 
on no account to employ force save for self-defence. 

Las Casas arraigned the conduct of all the colonial 
governors and officials, mercilessly attacking and 
exposing the various deceits and subterfuges, by 
means of which they evaded or overstepped their 
instructions, provoking the Indians by their inhuman 
cruelties to acts of resistance, in order to enslave 
them as rebels against the royal authority. He 
illustrated his accusations with numerous incidents 
of which he had himself been a witness. 

His denunciations of the judges described them 
as corrupt and venal, ready to wink at the scandalous 
abuses and the violations of the Spanish laws, which 
were daily perpetrated under their very eyes, con- 
senting the while to fill their own pockets with a 
share of the illicit profits. 

Describing the horrors and ravages of the slave- 

298 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

trade, he declared that the provinces of Guatemala 
and Nicaragua had been depopulated, while in the 
provinces of Jalisco, Yucatan, and Panuco, similar 
outrages had been perpetrated, adding that the 
Germans in Venezuela were even more adroit than 
the Spaniards in the nefarious art of raiding 
Indian villages to carry off the inhabitants into 
slavery. "Your Majesty will see that I do not exag- 
gerate when I affirm that more than four million 
men have been reduced to slavery, all of which has 
been accomplished in defiance of your Majesty's 
royal instructions." 

Throughout this treatise, Las Casas supports his 
contentions on citations from Scripture, and in 
the second article, dealing with the obligations of 
the King towards his Indian subjects, he defines in 
very plain language the sanctions on which the 
royal claims to obedience rest: "The law of God 
imposes on the king the obligation to administer his 
kingdoms in such wise that small and great, poor and 
rich, the weak and the powerful, shall all be treated 
with equal justice"; — such is his statement of the 
King's duty and he supports it with quotations 
from Deuteronomy, Leviticus, the prophet Isaias, 
and St. Jerome, concluding with these words: "In 
fact, history furnishes examples of God chastising 
the nations and kingdoms which have refused justice 
to the poor and the orphan. Who shall venture to 
say that such may not be the fate of Spain, if the 
King denies the poor Indians their just dues and 
fails to give them the liberty, to which they have 
an incontestable right?" 

Royal Responsibility 299 

Nor does he limit the King's responsibility to 
his personal acts in cases which may come directly 
to his knowledge; he is obliged also to see that his 
subjects observe one another's rights and live ac- 
cording to the laws of civil order and public morality. 
The object for which society and rulers exist is to 
insure the common weal of all, and no sovereign can 
secure this, who does not base his government on 
the principles of virtue and justice. The Spanish 
king is therefore not only obliged to secure the 
liberty of the Indians because justice exacts this 
of him, but also because he is bound to prevent his 
Spanish subjects from acts of usurpation of the 
rights of others. Christian kings have greater 
duties than those which weigh upon heathen or 
heretical rulers, for they are bound to protect religion, 
favour its ministers, and spread the faith for the 
sanctification of the whole world. By securing 
liberty to the Indians, their conversion would be 
assured and, all causes of enmity and hatred against 
Spaniards being removed, the natives would eagerly 
welcome the missionaries and receive their teaching. 

The third article of his argument, dealing with the 
conduct of bishops in America, rehearses their apos- 
tolic duties towards their flocks and concludes 
by denning it as an episcopal obligation to represent 
the sufferings and wrongs of their defenceless people 
to the King and the India Council, and to insist on 
justice being done them. 

It is a noteworthy fact that such writings and 
speeches seem to have given no offence to the 
Spanish monarch, at that time the most absolute 

300 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

sovereign in Christendom, and that, not only before 
the members of the India Council, but in the estima- 
tion of the impartial men of his times, Las Casas 
succeeded in disproving the charge of disputing the 
rights of the Spanish Crown to sovereignty in the 
Indies, which his enemies had maliciously sought to 
fasten upon him. 

Charles V. had already conceded much to the 
venerable Bishop's unceasing and energetic repre- 
sentations. A royal decree had abolished slavery, 
reduced very considerably the number of encomien- 
das, and had restricted the authority of the holders 
of these concessions over their Indians; the labours 
of the natives held in encomienda had been greatly 
lightened and their rights had been placed on a sure 
basis, strict instructions having been given to the 
civil authorities to correct abuses of power and to 
protect the weak. Wise laws and humane instruc- 
tions had, however, at no time been wanting but the 
benevolent intentions of the Emperor were never 
adequately fulfilled by the Spanish colonial officials. 
Nevertheless, much had been accomplished and the 
condition of the Indians — those of them who sur- 
vived — was very different in 1550, from that which 
prevailed when Las Casas took up their cause in 1510. 
Spaniards and Indians were equal before the com- 
mon law of the land, the papal bull had defined, once 
for all, the moral status of the latter as responsible 
beings, and it was henceforth heresy to sustain the 
contrary. The supports on which those who had 
contended in favour of tightening the hold of the 
Spanish colonists on the natives had, one by one, 

Last Labours 301 

been knocked from under them and the way was 
open for the more complete and practical application 
of the royal provisions for the protection of the 
oppressed peoples. 

Prince Philip, to whom the Emperor had granted 
the sovereignty of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia and 
who was already styled Philip II., left Spain on 
July 12, 1554, to celebrate his marriage with the 
English Queen, Mary Tudor. He took in his suite 
several renowned theologians, amongst whom was 
Carranza de Miranda, at that time his confessor 
and later raised to the primatial See of Toledo. 
The relations between Las Casas and this important 
ecclesiastic had been most cordial and the latter had 
given the weight of his approval on more than one 
occasion to the Bishop in his furious controversies; 
notably during his contest with Sepulveda and by 
defending his Confesionario. Carranza, in his quality 
of confessor, exercised a great influence over the 
mind of Philip II. 

At this time a movement was set on foot by the 
Spanish colonists in America to obtain from the 
Crown the establishment of the encomienda system 
in perpetuity. The movement was opportune, for 
Spanish finances were at a low ebb and the King, 
being hard pressed for ready money, might be 
tempted to yield his consent to this simple means 
for raising the considerable sum the petitioners 
would gladly pay. This important question seemed 
likely to be submitted to Philip during his stay in 
England, where an agent of the colonists in Peru, 
Don Antonio Ribera, was ready to open negotiations. 

302 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Las Casas, who was sleepless where the interests 
of his proteges were concerned, perceived how vitally 
their welfare was threatened by this nefarious scheme 
and vividly realised that Philip must be prevented, 
at all costs, from giving his decision during his 
absence from Spain. 

It would seem from his letter to Carranza, begging 
him to use his influence with the King to defer 
judgment until his return, that the latter had applied 
to him for an opinion on the subject. The corre- 
spondence between the two extended over the several 
years of the King's absence, but of the letters of Las 
Casas to Carranza, only the first one, written in 1555, 
has been preserved. Its language is no less vigorous 
than that which the Protector was accustomed to 
use when roused to the duties of his position. 

After reviewing the history of the colonists' rela- 
tions with the Indians and recalling the solemn pledge 
given by Charles V. that his Indian subjects should 
never be enslaved, he vehemently threatens the 
King and his ministers with the eternal pains of 
hell if they break that royal engagement. In enum- 
erating the obstacles opposed by the Spaniards to 
the conversion of the Indians, he writes: 

The third difficulty opposed to the conversion of the 
Indians is, that the system of oppression and cruelty 
followed in dealing with them, makes them curse the 
name of God and our holy religion: as the friars in 
Chiapa write me, nothing short of a miracle can make 
the Indians believe in Jesus Christ, when they see the 
execrable and manifest contradiction that exists be- 
tween His gentle and beneficent doctrines and the 

Last Labours 303 

conduct of the Christians, their enemies. What a 
scandal is it for them to see the faith preached by 
fifteen or twenty monks who are poor, despised, miser- 
ably clad, and reduced to begging their bread, while the 
crowd of so-called Christians living in opulence, arrayed 
in silks, mounted on their horses, inspires respect, sub- 
mission, and fear everywhere, and acts in defiance of the 
law of God and the teachings of His ministers ! 

The Bishop expresses the hope that Carranza will 
read any passage of his letter, or indeed the entire 
composition to the King, if he judges it wise. An 
analogous letter on the same subject, written shortly 
afterwards by Las Casas and Fray Domingo de 
Santo Tomas jointly, was addressed to Philip II. 
Victory crowned the Bishop's efforts, for the royal 
decision, given after King Philip's return to Spain, 
was adverse to making the encomiendas hereditary 
or perpetual. 

Although he had chosen San Gregorio as his 
residence, Las Casas must have been frequently and 
for lengthy periods absent from Valladolid. A royal 
order dated from Toledo on the fourteenth of De- 
cember, 1562, and signed by Philip II. directs that the 
Bishop of Chiapa, on account of his services to the 
late Emperor and of those he continues to render 
to the King, shall always be provided with lodgings 
suitable to his rank, in Toledo or wherever else in 
the Spanish realm the court may happen to reside. 
The attendance of Las Casas at court would seem, 
from this document, to have been frequent. 

In 1563, the annual life pension of 200,000 mara- 
vedis granted him by Charles V. in 1555, was in- 

304 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

creased by Philip II. to the sum of 350,000 maravedis. 

In the early months of 1564 Las Casas was in 
Madrid, lodged in the Convent of Our Lady of 
Atocha just outside the city walls. It was on the 
seventeenth of March of that year that he there 
formally delivered a sealed document, which he 
declared to be his signed will, in the presence of a 
notary, Gaspar Testa, and seven other witnesses. 1 

At the age of ninety he wrote his treatise in 
defence of the Peruvians, the last of his known com- 
positions, and which was written, as is stated in its 
text, in 1 564.2 The style and arguments of this 
work are identical with those that characterised 
all his writings. The last negotiation in behalf of 
American interests that Las Casas undertook and 
saw to a successful finish, was to obtain the restoration 
of the Audiencia of the Confines, to Gracias a* Dios, 
whence it had been recently transferred to Panama, 
thus leaving the whole of the former province with 
no superior tribunal for the administration of justice. 
This business called him from Valladolid to Madrid 
in the spring of 1566. 

The life of the great Bishop was nearing its end. 
He had long outlived all his early contemporaries, 
he had enjoyed the confidence and respect of three 
of the most remarkable sovereigns, Ferdinand of 
Aragon, Charles V. and Philip II., all of whom had 
received his fearless admonitions, not only with 
docility, but had responded with cordial admiration. 
Cardinal Ximenez, Pope Adrian VI., the powerful 

1 Fabie, Vida y Escritos, torn, i., p. 238. 

2 Published in Llorente's CEuvres de Las Casas. 

Death of Las Casas 305 

Flemish favourites, the discoverers and conquerors 
from Columbus to Cortes and Pizarro, were all long 
since dead, and he had seen numbers of his most 
powerful enemies in disgrace and in their graves. 
The Spain on which he closed his aged eyes was a 
different country from that on which he had first 
opened them; the colonial development in America, 
the Reformation in Germany, the rise of England — 
all these and a hundred events of minor but far- 
reaching importance, had changed the face of the 

The illness which proved fatal to Las Casas over- 
took him in the convent of the Atocha in Madrid, 
and in the latter days of July, 1566, he died. 1 Only 
a few days before he breathed his last he wrote the 
following sentences, which were probably the last 
his prolific pen ever traced. They portray the 
character and aspirations of this great man more 
fully, perhaps, than any other of his multitudinous 

For the goodness and mercy of God chose to elect me 
as His minister, despite my want of merit, to strive and 
labour for the infinite peoples, the possessors and owners 
of those kingdoms of the countries we call the Indies, 
against the burdens, evils, and injuries such as were 
never seen or heard of, which we Spaniards brought upon 
them, contrary to all right and justice; and to restore 
them to their pristine liberty, of which they were unjustly 

1 In volume iii. of the Sacro Diario Dominicano by Fray 
Domingo Marquez, published in Venice in 1697, July 31st is 
given as the date of his death. No other authority, as far as I 
know, mentions the exact date. 

306 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

despoiled ; and to save them from the violent death which 
they still suffer, just as for the same cause, thousands 
of leagues of country have been depopulated, many in 
my own presence. I have laboured at the Court of the 
Castilian sovereigns, coming and going between the 
Indies and Spain many times during the fifty years 
since 15 14, animated only by God and by compassion 
at beholding the destruction of such multitudes of 
rational, humble, most kind, and most simple men, all 
well adapted to accept our Holy Catholic Faith and 
moral doctrine, and to live honestly. God is witness that 
I have advanced no other reason. Hence I state my 
positive belief, for I believe the Holy Roman Church, 
which is the rule and measure of our faith, must and does 
hold that the Spaniards' conduct towards those peoples, 
their robberies, murders, usurpations of the territories 
of the rightful kings and nobles and other infinite proper- 
ties, which they accomplished with such accursed cruel- 
ties — has been contrary to the most strictly immaculate 
law of Jesus Christ and contrary to natural right. It 
has brought great infamy on the name of Jesus Christ 
and of the Christian religion, entirely hindering the spread 
of the faith and irreparably injuring the souls and bodies 
of those innocent peoples. I believe that because of 
these impious and ignominious acts, perpetrated un- 
justly, tyrannously, and barbarously upon them, God will 
visit His wrath and ire upon Spain for her share, great or 
small, in the blood-stained riches, obtained by theft and 
usurpation, accompanied by such slaughter and annihila- 
tion of those peoples, unless she does much penance. 

This last profession of the faith he had kept un- 
falteringly for more than half a century, was his 
own supreme vindication and a warning to his 

Death of Las Casas 307 

A great concourse of people assembled for the 
obsequies of the venerable Bishop, which were 
celebrated by the Superior of the Monastery, Fray 
Domingo de la Para, and his mortal remains, clothed 
in modest episcopal vestments, with a wooden 
crozier in his hand, were laid to rest in the Capilla 
Mayor of the church of Atocha. 1 

The remains of great men are frequently denied a 
permanent resting place anywhere, and the frequent 
translations of their bodies not uncommonly end 
in their final whereabouts becoming a matter of 
dispute. Records are lost, graves are disturbed, 
witnesses are untrustworthy, and it finally becomes 
impossible to ascertain the last resting place of some 
great personage, whose whereabouts during almost 
every hour of his life were a matter of public interest 
and notoriety. Thus it has happened with the 
remains of this illustrious Spaniard and holy Bishop. 
According to a statement made by Juan Antolines 
de Burgos in his manuscript history of the city of 
Valladolid, 2 the bones of Las Casas were afterwards 
removed from the Atocha and buried in San Gregorio. 
The college buildings were in part alienated, thus 
necessitating another removal of the body, which 
was then buried in the cloister where the remains 
of the monks commonly found sepulture. In 1670, 
Fray Gabriel de Cepedo dedicated a work entitled 
Historia de la milagrosa y Venerable Virgin de Atocha 
to Charles II. , in which he contradicts the statement 
of Juan Antolines by affirming that Las Casas rested 

1 Remesal, lib. x., cap. xx. 

2 Cited in Fabie\ Vida y Escritos de Las Casas. 

308 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

at that time in the church of Atocha. He does 
this as one referring to a commonly known and 
undisputed fact and his published statement has 
never been contradicted. The old church of Atocha 
no longer exists, having been demolished to make 
way for a new edifice, still in process of construction. 
The will of Las Casas was opened on July 31, 1566, 
at the instance of Fray Juan Bautiste, Procurator 
of the College of San Gregorio in Valladolid, he being 
the executor. It was found that Las Casas had left 
all his manuscripts to the college. x He requested the 
rector to have his vast correspondence, consisting of 
letters and reports sent to him by friars, missionaries, 
and others throughout all America and covering a 
period of many years, chronologically arranged and 
collected in the form of a book, as these documents 

1 His instruction to his executors concerning the Historia 
General reads as follows : 

I, Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, sometime bishop of Chiapa, 
confide this history to the college of San Gregorio, praying 
and entreating those persons who may be Rector and Counsel- 
lors of the college for the time, of their charity not to deliver 
it to any secular person: in order that, neither within the said 
college — and much less outside of it — it may not be read for 
a period of forty years, counting from this approaching year 
of 1560, which matter, I charge upon their consciences. And 
those forty years having elapsed, they may, if they see that it 
is for the good of the Indians and of Spain, order it to be pub- 
lished, principally for the glory of God and the manifestation 
of the truth. And it does not seem fitting for all the members 
of the college to read it, but only the most prudent ones, so that 
it may not be published before that time since it is not for that 
purpose, nor must it be so used. 

Given in November, 1559. 

Deo Gratias 
The Bishop, Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas. 

Death of Las Casas 309 

would illustrate and confirm the truth of all he had 
alleged against the Spaniards and in favour of the 
Indians. "Let them be placed," he wrote, "in the 
college library ad perpetuam rei memoriam, for should 
God decree the destruction of Spain, it may be seen 
that it is because of our destruction of the Indies, and 
His justice may be made apparent." 




Don Philip our Lord. 

Most High, and Mighty Lord. 

As divine Providence has ordained that in his world, 
for its government, and for the common utility of the 
human race, Kingdoms and Countries should be con- 
stituted in which are Kings almost fathers and pastors, 
(as Homer calls them) they being consequently the most 
noble, and most generous members of the Republics, 
there neither is nor can be reasonable doubt as to the 
rectitude of their royal hearts. If any defect, wrong, 
and evil is suffered, there can be no other cause than 
that the Kings are ignorant of it ; for if such were mani- 
fested to them, they would extirpate them with supreme 
industry and watchful diligence. 

2. It is seemingly this that the divine Scriptures 
mean in the Proverbs of Solomon, qui sedet in solio 
iudicii, dissipat omne malum intuitu suo: because it is 
thus assumed from the innate and peculiar virtue of 
the King namely, that the knowledge alone of evil in 
his Kingdom is absolutely sufficient that he should 


3i2 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

destroy it ; and that not for one moment, as far as in him 
lies, can he tolerate it. 

3. As I have fifty, or more, years of experience in 
those countries, I have therefore been considering the 
evils, I have seen committed, the injuries, losses, and 
misfortunes, such as it would not have been thought 
could be done by man; such kingdoms, so many, and 
so large, or to speak better, that most vast and new 
world of the Indies, conceded and confided by God and 
his Church to the Kings of Castile, that they should rule 
and govern it; that they should convert it, and should 
prosper it temporally, and spiritually. 

4. When some of their particular actions are made 
known to Your Highness, it will not be possible to forbear 
supplicating His Majesty with importunate insistence, 
that he should not concede nor permit that which the 
tyrants have invented, pursued, and put into execution, 
calling it Conquests ; which if permitted, will be repeated; 
because these acts in themselves, done against those 
pacific, humble, and mild Indian people, who offend 
none, are iniquitous, tyrannous, condemned and cursed 
by every natural, divine, and human law. 

5. So as not to keep criminal silence concerning the 
ruin of numberless souls and bodies that these persons 
cause, I have decided to print some, though very few, of 
the innumerable instances I have collected in the past 
and can relate with truth, in order that Your Highness 
may read them with greater facility. 

6. Although the Archbishop of Toledo, Your High- 
ness' Preceptor, when Bishop of Cartagena, asked me 
for them and presented them to Your Highness, never- 
theless, because of the long journeys by sea and land 
Your Highness has made, and of the continual royal 
occupations, it may be that Your Highness either has not 
read them or has already forgotten them. 

Brevissima Relacion 313 

7. The daring and unreasonable cupidity of those 
who count it as nothing to unjustly shed such an immense 
quantity of human blood, and to deprive those enormous 
countries of their natural inhabitants and possessors, 
by slaying millions of people and stealing incomparable 
treasures, increase every day; and they insist by various 
means and under various feigned pretexts, that the 
said Conquests are permitted, without violation of the 
natural and divine law, and, in consequence, without most 
grievous mortal sin, worthy of terrible and eternal 
punishment. I therefore esteemed it right to furnish 
Your Highness with this very brief summary of a very 
long history that could and ought to be composed, 
of the massacres and devastation that have taken 

8. I supplicate Your Highness to receive and read it 
with the clemency, and royal benignity he usually 
shows to his creatures, and servants, who desire to 
serve solely for the public good and for the prosperity 
of the State. 

9. Having seen and understood the monstrous in- 
justice done to these innocent people in destroying and 
outraging them, without cause or just motive, but out 
of avarice alone, and the ambition of those who design 
such villainous operations, may Your Highness be 
pleased to supplicate and efficaciously persuade His 
Majesty to forbid such harmful and detestable practices 
to those who seek license for them : may he silence this 
infernal demand for ever, with so much terror, that from 
this time forward there shall be no one so audacious as to 
dare but to name it. 

10. This — Most High Lord — is most fitting and neces- 
sary to do, that God may prosper, preserve and render 
blessed, both temporally and spiritually, all the State 
of the royal crown of Castile. Amen. 

314 Bartholomew de Las Casas 


The Indies were discovered in the year fourteen 
hundred and ninety-two. The year following, Spanish 
Christians went to inhabit them, so that it is since 
forty-nine years that numbers of Spaniards have gone 
there: and the first land, that they invaded to inhabit, 
was the large and most delightful Isle of Hispaniola, 
which has a circumference of six hundred leagues. 

2. There are numberless other islands, and very 
large ones, all around on every side, that were all — and 
we have seen it — as inhabited and full of their native 
Indian peoples as any country in the world. 

3. Of the continent, the nearest part of which is 
more than two hundred and fifty leagues distant from 
this Island, more than ten thousand leagues of maritime 
coast have been discovered, and more is discovered 
every day; all that has been discovered up to the year 
forty-nine is full of people, like a hive of bees, so that 
it seems as though God had placed all, or the greater 
part of the entire human race in these countries. 

4. God has created all these numberless people to be 
quite the simplest, without malice or duplicity, most 
obedient, most faithful to their natural Lords, and to 
the Christians, whom they serve; the most humble, 
most patient, most peaceful, and calm, without strife 
nor tumults ; not wrangling, nor querulous, as free from 
uproar, hate and desire of revenge, as any in the world. 

5. They are likewise the most delicate people, weak 
and of feeble constitution, and less than any other can 
they bear fatigue, and they very easily die of whatsoever 
infirmity; so much so, that not even the sons of our 
Princes and of nobles, brought up in royal and gentle 
life, are more delicate than they; although there are 
among them such as are of the peasant class. They 

Brevissima Relacion 315 

are also a very poor people, who of worldly goods possess 
little, nor wish to possess: and they are therefore neither 
proud, nor ambitious, nor avaricious. 

6. Their food is so poor, that it would seem that of 
the Holy Fathers in the desert was not scantier nor 
less pleasing. Their way of dressing is usually to go 
naked, covering the private parts; and at most they 
cover themselves with a cotton cover, which would be 
about equal to one and a half or two ells square of cloth. 
Their beds are of matting, and they mostly sleep in 
certain things like hanging nets, called in the language 
of Hispaniola hamacas. 

7. They are likewise of a clean, unspoiled, and 
vivacious intellect, very capable, and receptive to every 
good doctrine ; most prompt to accept our Holy Catholic 
Faith, to be endowed with virtuous customs; and they 
have as little difficulty with such things as any people 
created by God in the world. 

8. Once they have begun to learn of matters per- 
taining to faith, they are so importunate to know them, 
and in frequenting the sacraments and divine service 
of the Church, that to tell the truth, the clergy have need 
to be endowed of God with the gift of pre-eminent 
patience to bear with them: and finally, I have heard 
many lay Spaniards frequently say many years ago, 
(unable to deny the goodness of those they saw) certainly 
these people were the most blessed of the earth, had 
they only knowledge of God. 

9. Among these gentle sheep, gifted by their Maker 
with the above qualities, the Spaniards entered as soon 
as they knew them, like wolves, tigers, and lions which 
had been starving for many days, and since forty years 
they have done nothing else; nor do they otherwise at 
the present day, than outrage, slay, afflict, torment, 
and destroy them with strange and new, and divers 

316 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

kinds of cruelty, never before seen, nor heard of, nor read 
of, of which some few will be told below : to such extremes 
has this gone that, whereas there were more than three 
million souls, whom we saw in Hispaniola, there are 
to-day, not two hundred of the native population left. 

10. The island of Cuba is almost as long as the dis- 
tance from Valladolid to Rome ; it is now almost entirely 
deserted. The islands of San Juan [Porto Rico], and 
Jamaica, very large and happy and pleasing islands, are 
both desolate. The Lucaya Isles lie near Hispaniola and 
Cuba to the north and number more than sixty, includ- 
ing those that are called the Giants, and other large and 
small Islands; the poorest of these, which is more fertile, 
and pleasing than the King's garden in Seville, is the 
healthiest country in the world, and contained more than 
five hundred thousand souls, but to-day there remains 
not even a single creature. All were killed in transport- 
ing them, to Hispaniola, because it was seen that the 
native population there was disappearing. 

ii. A ship went three years later to look for the 
people that had been left after the gathering in, because 
a good Christian was moved by compassion to convert 
and win those that were found to Christ; only eleven 
persons, whom I saw, were found. 

12. More than thirty other islands, about the Isle of 
San Juan, are destroyed and depopulated, for the same 
reason. All these islands cover more than two thousand 
leagues of land, entirely depopulated and deserted. 

13. We are assured that our Spaniards, with their 
cruelty and execrable works, have depopulated and made 
desolate the great continent, and that more than ten 
Kingdoms, larger than all Spain, counting Aragon and 
Portugal, and twice as much territory as from Seville 
to Jerusalem (which is more than two thousand leagues) , 
although formerly full of people, are now deserted. 

Brevissima Relacion 317 

14. We give as a real and true reckoning, that in 
the said forty years, more than twelve million persons, 
men, and women, and children, have perished unjustly 
and through tyranny, by the infernal deeds and tyranny 
of the Christians; and I truly believe, nor think I am 
deceived, that it is more than fifteen. 

15. Two ordinary and principal methods have the 
self-styled Christians, who have gone there, employed 
in extirpating these miserable nations and removing them 
from the face of the earth. The one, by unjust, cruel 
and tyrannous wars. The other, by slaying all those, 
who might aspire to, or sigh for, or think of liberty, or 
to escape from the torments that they suffer, such as all 
the native Lords, and adult men; for generally, they 
leave none alive in the wars, except the young men 
and the women, whom they oppress with the hardest, 
most horrible, and roughest servitude, to which either 
man or beast, can ever be put. To these two ways 
of infernal tyranny, all the many and divers other 
ways, which are numberless, of exterminating these 
people, are reduced, resolved, or sub-ordered according 
to kind. 

16. The reason why the Christians have killed and 
destroyed such infinite numbers of souls, is solely be- 
cause they have made gold their ultimate aim, seeking to 
load themselves with riches in the shortest time and to 
mount by high steps, disproportioned to their condition : 
namely by their insatiable avarice and ambition, the 
greatest, that could be on the earth. These lands, 
being so happy and so rich, and the people so humble, so 
patient, and so easily subjugated, they have had no more 
respect, nor consideration nor have they taken more 
account of them (I speak with truth of what I have 
seen during all the aforementioned time) than,; — I will 
not say of animals, for would to God they had con- 

3*8 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

sidered and treated them as animals, — but as even less 
than the dung in the streets. 

17. In this way have they cared for their lives — and 
for their souls: and therefore, all the millions above 
mentioned have died without faith, and without sacra- 
ments. And it is a publicly known truth, admitted, 
and confessed by all, even by the tyrants and homicides 
themselves, that the Indians throughout the Indies 
never did any harm to the Christians: they even es- 
teemed them as coming from heaven, until they and 
their neighbours had suffered the same many evils, 
thefts, deaths, violence and visitations at their hands. 

Of Hispaniola 

In the island of Hispaniola — which was the first, as 
we have said, to be invaded by the Christians — the im- 
mense massacres and destruction of these people began. 
It was the first to be destroyed and made into a desert. 
The Christians began by taking the women and children, 
to use and to abuse them, and to eat of the substance of 
their toil and labour, instead of contenting themselves 
with what the Indians gave them spontaneously, accord- 
ing to the means of each. Such stores are always small ; 
because they keep no more than they ordinarily need, 
which they acquire with little labour; but what is enough 
for three households, of ten persons each, for a month, a 
Christian eats and destroys in one day. From their 
using force, violence and other kinds of vexations, the 
Indians began to perceive that these men could not 
have come from heaven. 

2. Some hid their provisions, others, their wives 
and children: others fled to the mountains to escape 
from people of such harsh and terrible intercourse. 
The Christians gave them blows in the face, beatings 

Hispaniola 319 

and cudgellings, even laying hands on the lords of the 
land. They reached such recklessness and effrontery, 
that a Christian captain violated the lawful wife of 
the chief king and lord of all the island. 

3. After this deed, the Indians consulted to devise 
means of driving the Christians from their country. 
They took up their weapons, which are poor enough and 
little fitted for attack, being of little force and not even 
good for defence; For this reason, all their wars are 
little more than games with sticks, such as children play 
in our countries. 

4. The Christians, with their horses and swords and 
lances, began to slaughter and practise strange cruelty 
among them. They penetrated into the country and 
spared neither children nor the aged, nor pregnant 
women, nor those in child labour, all of whom they ran 
through the body and lacerated, as though they were 
assaulting so many lambs herded in their sheepfold. 

5. They made bets as to who would slit a man in 
two, or cut off his head at one blow: or they opened up 
his bowels. They tore the babes from their mothers' 
breast by the feet, and dashed their heads against the 
rocks. Others they seized by the shoulders and threw 
into the rivers, laughing and joking, and when they fell 
into the water they exclaimed: "boil body of so and 
so!" They spitted the bodies of other babes, together 
with their mothers and all who were before them, on 
their swords. 

6. They made a gallows just high enough for the 
feet to nearly touch the ground, and by thirteens, in 
honour and reverence of our Redeemer and the twelve 
Apostles, they put wood underneath and, with fire, they 
burned the Indians alive. 

7. They wrapped the bodies of others entirely in dry 
straw, binding them in it and setting fire to it ; and so they 

32o Bartholomew de Las Casas 

burned them. They cut off the hands of all they wished 
to take alive, made them carry them fastened on to 
them, and said: "Go and carry letters " : that is; take the 
news to those who have fled to the mountains. 

8. They generally killed the lords and nobles in the 
following way. They made wooden gridirons of stakes, 
bound them upon them, and made a slow fire beneath: 
thus the victims gave up the spirit by degrees, emitting 
cries of despair in their torture. 

9. I once saw that they had four or five of the chief 
lords stretched on the gridirons to burn them, and I 
think also there were two or three pairs of gridirons, 
where they were burning others; and because they 
cried aloud and annoyed the captain or prevented him 
sleeping, he commanded that they should strangle them : 
the officer who was burning them was worse than a 
hangman and did not wish to suffocate them, but with 
his own hands he gagged them, so that they should not 
make themselves heard, and he stirred up the fire, 
until they roasted slowly, according to his pleasure. 
I know his name, and knew also his relations in 
Seville. I saw all the above things and numberless 

10. And because all the people who could flee, hid 
among the mountains and climbed the crags to escape 
from men so deprived of humanity, so wicked, such 
wild beasts, exterminators and capital enemies of all 
the human race, the Spaniards taught and trained the 
fiercest boar-hounds to tear an Indian to pieces as soon 
as they saw him, so that they more willingly attacked 
and ate one, than if he had been a boar. These hounds 
made great havoc and slaughter. 

11. And because sometimes, though rarely, the In- 
dians killed a few Christians for just cause, they made 
a law among themselves, that for one Christian whom 

Hispaniola 321 

the Indians killed, the Christians should kill a hundred 

The Kingdoms that were in Hispaniola 

There were five very large and principal kingdoms in 
this island of Hispaniola, and five very mighty kings, 
whom all the other numberless lords obeyed, although 
some of the lords of certain separate provinces did not 
recognise any of them as superior. One kingdom was 
called Magua, with the last syllable accented, which 
means the kingdom of the plain. 

This plain is one of the most notable and marvellous 
things in the world, for it stretches eighty leagues from 
the sea on the south to that on the north. Its width 
is five leagues, attaining to eight and ten, and it has 
very high mountains on both sides. 

2. More than thirty thousand rivers, and brooks 
water it among which there are twelve as large as the 
Ebro, the Duero, and the Guadalquivir. And all the 
rivers that flow from the western mountain, which 
number twenty or twenty-five thousand, are very rich 
in gold. On that mountain (or mountains) lies the 
province of Cibao, from which the mines of Cibao are 
named, whence comes that famous gold, superior in 
carat, which is held in great esteem here. 

3. The king, and lord of this realm was called Guar- 
ionex. He had such great lords as his vassals, that one 
alone of them mustered sixteen thousand warriors to 
serve Guarionex; and I knew some of them. This 
king Guarionex was very obedient, virtuous and, by 
nature, peaceful and devoted to the king of Castile. 
And in certain years, every householder amongst his 
people gave by his orders, a bell full of gold; and after- 
wards, because they could not fill it, they cut it in two 


322 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

and gave that half full; because the Indians had little 
or no ability to collect, or dig the gold from the mines. 

4. This prince offered to serve the King of Castile, by 
having as much land cultivated as would extend from 
Isabella, which was the first habitation of the Christians, 
to the town of San Domingo, which is a good fifty leagues, 
in order that gold should not be asked of him; because 
he said, and with truth, that his vassals knew not how 
to collect it. I know he was able to do the cultivation 
he proposed to undertake, most gladly; and it would 
have rendered the King more than three million crowns 
yearly, and, owing to this cultivation, there would have 
been at the present time in this island fifty towns as 
large as Seville. 

5. The payment they awarded to this great and good 
king and lord, was to dishonour him; a captain, a bad 
Christian violating his wife. Although he might have 
bided his time to assemble his people and revenge him- 
self, he determined to depart alone, and to hide himself 
and die exiled from his kingdom and state, in a province 
called Ciguay , of which the ruler was his vassal. 

6. When the Christians became aware that he was 
missing, he could not hide himself from them. They 
made war on that ruler who sheltered him, where, after 
great slaughter, they found and captured him. When 
he was taken, they put him on a ship in chains, to bring 
him to Castile in fetters. The ship was lost at sea, 
and many Christians were drowned with him, besides a 
great quantity of gold, including the great nugget, 
which was as big as a cake and weighed three thousand 
and six hundred crowns, because God was pleased to 
avenge such great injustice. 

7. The second kingdom was called Marien, where now 
is the royal port at the end of the plain towards the north. 
It was larger than the kingdom of Portugal and was 

Hispaniola 3 2 3 

certainly much more prosperous, and worthy of being 
populated; and it has many, and high mountains, and 
very rich gold, and copper mines. Its king was named 
Guacanagari (with the last letter accented) under whom 
there were many and very great lords, many of whom I 
saw and knew. 

8. In the country of this king, the old Admiral 1 who 
discovered the Indies, first went to stay. When he 
discovered the island he, and all the Christians who 
accompanied him, was received the first time by the said 
Guacanagari with great humanity and charity. He 
met with such a gentle and agreeable reception, and 
such help and guidance when the ship in which the 
Admiral sailed was lost there, that in his own country, 
and from his own father a better would not have been 
possible. This I know from the recital and words of the 
same Admiral. This king, flying from the massacres 
and cruelty -of the Christians, died a wanderer in the 
mountains, ruined and deprived of his state. All the 
other lords, his subjects, died under tyranny and servi- 
tude, as will be told below. 

9. The third kingdom and dominion was Maguana, 
a country equally marvellous, most healthy and most 
fertile ; where now the best sugar of the island is made. 
Its king was called Caonabo. In strength, and dignity, 
in gravity, and pomp he surpassed all the others. They 
captured this king with great cunning and malice, he 
being safe in his own house. They put him on a ship 
to take him to Castile and, as there were six ships in 
the port ready to leave, God, who wished to show that 
this, together with the other things, was a great iniquity 
and injustice, sent a tempest that night that sank all the 
vessels, drowning all the Christians on board of them. 

1 Meaning Christopher Columbus. 

324 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

The said Caonabo perished, loaded with chains, and 

10. This lord had three or four very brave brothers, 
as powerful and valiant as himself. They, seeing the 
unjust imprisonment of their brother and lord, and 
witnessing the destruction and slaughter the Christians 
perpetrated in the other kingdoms, (particularly after 
they knew that the king their brother was dead) armed 
themselves to attack the Christians and avenge them- 
selves. The Christians went against them with some 
horsemen. Horses are the most deadly arm possible 
among the Indians. They worked such havoc and 
slaughter, that they desolated, and depopulated half 
the kingdom. 

ii. The fourth kingdom is that which is called 
Xaragua. This was as the marrow, or the Court of all 
this island. It surpassed all the other kingdoms in 
the politeness of its more ornate speech as well as in 
more cultured good breeding, and in the multitude and 
generosity of the nobles. For there were lords and 
nobles in great numbers. In their costumes and beauty, 
the people were superior to all others. 

12. The king and lord of it was called Behechio and he 
had a sister called Anacaona. Both rendered great 
services to the King of Castile, and immense kindnesses 
to the Christians, delivering them from many mortal 
dangers: and when the King Behechio died, Anacaona 
was left mistress of the kingdom. 

13. The governor 1 who ruled this island arrived there 
once, with sixty horsemen and more than three hundred 
foot. The horsemen alone were sufficient to ruin the 
whole island and the terra firma. More than three 
hundred lords were assembled, whom he had summoned 

1 Don Nicholas de Ovando. 

Hispaniola 325 

and reassured. He lured the principal ones by fraud, 
into a straw-house, and setting fire to it, he burnt them 

14. All the others, together with numberless people, 
were put to the sword, and lance. And to do honour to 
the Lady Anacaona, they hanged her. It happened 
that some Christians, either out of compassion or avarice, 
took some children to save them, placing them behind 
them on their horses, and another Spaniard approached 
from behind and ran his lance through them. Another, 
if a child was on the ground, cut off its legs with 
his sword. Some, who could flee from this inhuman 
cruelty, crossed to a little island lying eight leagues 
distant in the sea; and the said governor condemned 
all such to be slaves, because they had fled from the 

15. The fifth kingdom was called Higuey: and an 
old queen called Higuanama ruled it, whom they hanged. 
And I saw numberless people being burnt alive, torn, and 
tortured in divers, and new ways, while all whom they 
took alive were enslaved. 

16. And because so many particulars happened in 
this slaughter and destruction of people, that they 
could not be contained in a lengthy description — for in 
truth I believe that however many I told, I could not 
express the thousandth part of the whole — I will simply 
conclude the above mentioned wars by saying and 
affirming, before God and my conscience, that the In- 
dians gave no more cause, nor were more to blame for 
all this injustice done unto them, and for the other said 
wickedness I could tell, but omit, than a monastery 
of good and well ordered monks would have given that 
they should be robbed and killed, and that those who 
escaped death, should be placed in perpetual captivity 
and servitude, as slaves. 

326 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

17. And furthermore, I attest, that in all the space 
of time during which the multitudes of the population 
of this island were being killed and destroyed, as far as 
I can believe or conjecture, they did not commit a 
single mortal sin against the Christians that merited 
punishment by man. And of those which are reserved 
to God alone, such as the desire of vengeance, hatred and 
rancour, that these people might harbour against such 
mortal enemies as were the Christians, I believe very 
few of the Indians committed any such. They were 
little more impetuous and harsh, judging from the great 
experience I have of them, than children or youths of 
ten or twelve years. 

18. I have certain and infallible knowledge, that 
the Indians always made most just war on the Christians 
while the Christians never had a single just one with the 
Indians; on the contrary, they were all diabolical and 
most unjust, and much worse than can be said of any 
tyrant in the world ; and I affirm the same of what they 
have done throughout the Indies. 

19. When the wars were finished, and with them 
the murder, they divided among them all the men, 
(youths, women, and children being usually spared) 
giving to one, thirty, to another forty, and to another 
a hundred and two hundred, according to the favour 
each enjoyed with the chief tyrant, whom they called 
governor. Having thus distributed them, they as- 
signed them to each Christian, under the pretence that 
the latter should train them in the catholic faith; thus 
to men who are generally all idiots, and very cruel, 
avaricious and vicious, they gave the care of souls. 

20. The care and thought these Spaniards took, was 
to send the men to the mines to dig gold, which is an 
intolerable labour; and they put the women into dwell- 
ings, which are huts, to dig and cultivate the land; a 

Hispaniola 3 2 7 

strong and robust man's work. They gave food neither 
to the one, nor the other, except grass, and things that 
have no substance. The milk dried up in the breasts 
of nursing women and thus, within a short time, all the 
infants died. 

21. And as the husbands were separated and never 
saw their wives, generation diminished among them; 
the men died of fatigue and hunger in the mines and 
others perished in dwellings or huts, for the same reason. 
It was in this way that such multitudes of people were 
destroyed in this island, as indeed all those in the world 
might be destroyed by like means. 

22. It is impossible to recount the burdens with which 
their owners loaded them, more than three and four 
arobas x weight, making them walk a hundred and two 
hundred leagues. The same Christians had themselves 
carried by Indians in hamacas, which are like nets; 
for they always used them as beasts of burden. They 
had wounds on their shoulders and backs, like animals, 
all wither- wrung. To tell likewise of the whip-lashings, 
the beatings, the cuffs, the blows, the curses, and a 
thousand other kinds of torments to which their masters 
treated them, while, in truth, they were working hard, 
would take much time and much paper; and would be 
something to amaze mankind. 

23. It must be noted, that the destruction of this 
island and of these lands was begun when the death of 
the most Serene Queen, Dona Isabella was known here, 
which was in the year 1504. For up to that time, only 
some provinces in the island had been ruined by unjust 
wars, but not entirely: and these were nearly all kept 
hidden from the Queen. Because the Queen, who is 
in blessed glory, used great solicitude and marvellous 

1 An aroba is about twenty-five pounds. 

328 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

zeal for the health and prosperity of these people, as 
we ourselves, who have seen the examples of it with 
our eyes and touched them with our hands, well know. 
24. Another rule to be noted is this; that in all parts 
of the Indies where the Christians have gone and have 
passed, they ever did the same murder among the 
Indians, and used tyranny and abominable oppression 
against these innocent people; and they added many 
more and greater and newer ways of torment. They 
became ever crueller, because God let them precipitate 
themselves the more swiftly into reprobate judgments 
and sentiments. 

The Two Islands of San Juan and Jamaica 

In 1509 the Spaniards passed over to the islands of 
San Juan and Jamaica, * which were so many gardens and 
hives of bees, with the same object and design they had 
accomplished in Hispaniola, where they committed the 
great outrages and iniquities narrated above. They 
even added to them more notorious ones, and the greatest 
cruelty; slaying, burning, roasting, and, throwing the 
Indians to fierce dogs. They oppressed, tormented, 
and afflicted all those unhappy innocents in the mines, 
and with other labours, until they were consumed and 
destroyed, because there were in the said isles more than 
a million souls, and to-day there are not two hundred 
in each. All have perished without faith and without 

The Island of Cuba 

In the year 1511 the Spaniards passed over to the 

1 Both islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus, but 
were only colonised in 1509. Juan Esquibel was the governor. 

Cuba 329 

island of Cuba, 1 which as I said, is as long as from Valla- 
dolid to Rome, and where there were great and populous 
provinces. They began and ended in the above manner, 
only with incomparably greater cruelty. Here many 
notable things occurred. 

2. A very high prince and lord, named Hatuey, who 
had fled with many of his people from Hispaniola to Cuba, 
to escape the calamity and inhuman operations of the 
Christians, having received news from some Indians 
that the Christians were crossing over, assembled many 
or all of his people, and addressed them thus. 

3. "You already know that it is said the Christians 
are coming here ; and you have experience of how they 
have treated the lords so and so and those people of 
Hayti (which is Hispaniola) ; they come to do the same 
here. Do you know perhaps why they do it?" The 
people answered no; except that they were by nature 
cruel and wicked. "They do it," said he, "not alone 
for this, but because they have a God whom they greatly 
adore and love; and to make us adore Him they strive 
to subjugate us and take our lives. " He had near 
him a basket full of gold and jewels and he said. "Be- 
hold here is the God of the Christians, let us perform 
Areytos before Him, if you will (these are dances 
in concert and singly) ; and perhaps we shall please 
Him, and He will command that they do us no 

4. All exclaimed; it is well! it is well! They danced 
before it, till they were all tired, after which the lord 
Hatuey said ; ' ' Note well that in any event if we preserve 
the gold, they will finally have to kill us, to take it from 
us: let us throw it into this river. " They all agreed to 

1 Expedition commanded by Diego Velasquez, who was after- 
wards appointed governor. 

33° Bartholomew de Las Casas 

this proposal, and they threw the gold into a great river 
in that place. 

5. This prince and lord continued retreating before 
the Christians when they arrived at the island of Cuba, 
because he knew them, but when he encountered them 
he defended himself; and at last they took him. And 
merely because he fled from such iniquitous and cruel 
people, and defended himself against those who wished 
to kill and oppress him, with all his people and offspring 
until death, they burnt him alive. 

6. When he was tied to the stake, a Franciscan 
monk, a holy man, who was there, spoke as much as he 
could to him, in the little time that the executioner 
granted them, about God and some of the teachings of 
our faith, of which he had never before heard; he told 
him that if he would believe what was told him, he would 
go to heaven where there was glory and eternal rest ; and 
if not, that he would go to hell, to suffer perpetual tor- 
ments and punishment. After thinking a little, Hatuey 
asked the monk whether the Christians went to heaven; 
the monk answered that those who were good went 
there. The prince at once said, without any more 
thought, that he did not wish to go there, but rather 
to hell so as not to be where Spaniards were, nor to see 
such cruel people. This is the renown and honour, 
that God and our faith have acquired by means of 
the Christians who have gone to the Indies. 

7. On one occasion they came out ten leagues from 
a great settlement to meet us, bringing provisions and 
gifts, and when we met them, they gave us a great 
quantity of fish and bread and other victuals, with 
everything they could supply. All of a sudden the devil 
entered into the bodies of the Christians, and in my 
presence they put to the sword, without any motive 
or cause whatsoever, more than three thousand persons, 

Cuba 33 1 

men, women, and children, who were seated before us. 
Here I beheld such great cruelty as living man has 
never seen nor thought to see. 

8. Once I sent messengers to all the lords of the 
province of Havana, assuring them that if they would 
not absent themselves but come to receive us, no harm 
should be done them ; all the country was terrorized be- 
cause of the past slaughter, and I did this by the 
captain's advice. When we arrived in the province, 
twenty-one princes and lords came to receive us; and 
at once the captain violated the safe conduct I had given 
them and took them prisoners. The following day he 
wished to burn them alive, saying it was better so because 
those lords would some time or other do us harm. I had 
the greatest difficulty to deliver them from the flames 
but finally I saved them. 

9. After all the Indians of this island were reduced 
to servitude and misfortune like those of Hispaniola, 
and when they saw they were all perishing inevitably, 
some began to flee to the mountains; others to hang 
themselves in despair; husbands and wives hanged 
themselves, together with their children, and through 
the cruelty of one very tyrannical Spaniard whom I 
knew, more than two hundred Indians hanged them- 
selves. In this way numberless people perished. 

10. There was an officer of the King in this island, 
to whose share three hundred Indians fell; and by the 
end of three months he had, through labour in the mines, 
caused the death of two hundred and seventy; so that 
he had only thirty left, which was the tenth part. 
The authorities afterwards gave him as many again, 
and again he killed them: and they continued to give, 
and he to kill, until he came to die, and the devil carried 
away his soul. 

11. In three or four months, I being present, more 

33 2 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

than seven thousand children died of hunger, their 
fathers and mothers having been taken to the mines. 
Other dreadful things did I see. 

12. Afterwards the Spaniards resolved to go and 
hunt the Indians who were in the mountains, where they 
perpetrated marvellous massacres. Thus they ruined 
and depopulated all this island which we beheld not 
long ago; and it excites pity, and great anguish to see 
it deserted, and reduced to a solitude. 

The Mainland 

In the year 151 4 there passed over to the continent 
an unhappy Governor 1 who was the cruellest of tyrants, 
destitute of compassion or prudence, almost an instru- 
ment of divine fury. His intention was to settle large 
numbers of Spaniards in that country. And although 
several tyrants had visited the continent, and had 
robbed and scandalised many people, their stealing 
and ravaging had been confined to the sea-coast; but 
this man surpassed all the others who had gone before 
him, and those of all the Islands; and his villainous 
operations outdid all the past abominations. 

2. Not only did he depopulate the sea-coast, but 
also countries and large kingdoms where he killed num- 
berless people, sending them to hell. This man devast- 
ated many leagues of country extending above Deldarien 
to the kingdom and provinces of Nicaragua inclusive, 
which is .more than five hundred leagues; it was the 
best, the happiest, and the most populous land in the 
world. There were very many great lords and number- 
less settlements, and very great wealth of gold: for 
until that time, never had there been so much seen 

1 This was Pedro Arias Davila, commonly called Pedrarius. 

The Mainland 333 

above ground. For although Spain had been almost 
filled with gold from Hispaniola, and that of the finest, 
it had been dug by the labour of the Indians from the 
bowels of the earth, out of the aforesaid mines, where, 
as has been said, they perished. 

3. This governor and his people invented new means 
of cruelty and of torturing the Indians, to force them to 
show, and give them gold. There was a captain of his 
who, in an incursion, ordered by him to rob and extirpate 
the people, killed more than forty thousand persons, 
putting them to the sword, burning them alive, throwing 
them to fierce dogs, and torturing them with various 
kind of tortures: these acts were witnessed by a Fran- 
ciscan friar with his own eyes, for he went with the 
captain, and he was called Fray Francisco de San Roman. 

4. The most pernicious blindness of those who have 
governed the Indies up to the present day, in providing 
for the conversion and salvation of these people, which 
(to tell the truth) they have always postponed, although 
with words they have represented and pretended other- 
wise, reached such depths that they have commanded 
notice to be given the Indians to accept the Holy faith 
and render obedience to the kings of Castile; otherwise 
war would be made on them with fire and blood, and 
they would be killed and made slaves etc. 

5. As though the Son of God, who died for each of 
them, had commanded in his law, when he said Euntes, 
docete omnes gentes that intimation should be sent to 
peaceful and quiet infidels, in their own countries, 
that, if they did not receive it at once, without other 
teaching or doctrine, and that if they did not subject 
themselves to the dominion of a king, of whom they had 
never heard, nor seen, and particularly whose messengers 
are so cruel, so wicked, and such horrible tyrants, they 
should therefore, lose their rights, their lands and liberty, 

334 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

their wives and children, with all their lives; such a 
blunder is stupid and worthy of infamy, obloquy, and 

6. This wretched and unhappy governor, in giving 
instructions as to the said intimations, the better to 
justify them — they being of themselves unseemly, un- 
reasonable and most unjust — commanded these thieves 
sent by him, to act as follows: when they had determined 
to invade and plunder some province, where they had 
heard that gold was to be found, they should go when the 
Indians were in their towns, and safe in their houses; 
these wretched Spanish assassins went by night and, 
halting at midnight half a league from the town, they 
published or read the said intimation among themselves 
saying: Princes and Indians of such a place in this con- 
tinent, we make known unto you, that there is one God, 
one Pope, and one King of Castile, who is Lord of this 
country; come at once to render him obedience etc. 
otherwise know that we shall make war on you, kill 
you, and put you into slavery etc. And towards sun- 
rise, the innocent natives being still asleep with their 
wives and children, they attacked' the town, setting 
fire to the houses that were usually of straw, burning 
the children, the women and many others alive, before 
they awoke. They killed whom they would, and those 
whom they took alive, they afterwards killed with 
tortures, to force them to indicate other towns where 
there was gold, or more than was to be found there; 
and the others that survived, they put into chains 
as slaves. Then when the fire was extinguished or low 
they went to look for the gold that was in the houses. 

7. In this way and with such operations, were this 
wretched man and all the bad Christians he took with 
him occupied during the year 15 14, till the year 1521 or 
1522, sending on these raids six or more servants, who 

The Mainland 335 

collected for him a certain portion of all the gold and 
pearls and jewels the Spaniards stole, and of the slaves 
they captured, besides the share that belonged to him 
as Captain General. The officers of the king did the 
same, each sending as many boys or servants as he 
could. And also the first bishop of that kingdom sent 
his servants to obtain part of this profit. 

9. As far as I can judge they stole, during that time 
in the said kingdom, more gold than a million crowns; 
and I believe I understate it; and it will not be found 
that, of all they stole, they sent the King more than three 
thousand crowns. And they destroyed more than eight 
hundred thousand souls. The other tyrant governors 
who succeeded them till the year 1533 killed, and allowed 
to be killed the survivors with the tyrannical servitude 
that followed the war. 

10. Among the other numberless knaveries he com- 
mitted and permitted during the time he governed, was 
this one; a prince, or lord, having of his own will, or 
more likely out of fear, given him nine thousand crowns, 
he was not satisfied with this sum so he took the said 
lord, bound him seated to a stake, with his feet dis- 
tended and exposed to fire, to force him to give them 
a larger quantity of gold ; and he [the chief] sent to his 
house and brought other three thousand crowns; they 
tortured him again, and as he gave no more gold, either 
because he had none or did not wish to give it, they 
kept him thus, till the marrow oozed out from the soles 
of his feet; and thus he died. Numberless times they 
killed and tortured lords in this way to get gold from 

1 1 . Another time a company of Spaniards, while going 
to assassinate, came to a mountain where a great number 
of people were sheltered and in hiding, to escape from 
the pestilential and horrible operations of the Christians ; 

336 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

assaulting it unexpectedly they captured seventy or 
eighty young girls and women; and left many dead 
whom they had killed. 

12. The next day many Indians assembled and 
pursued the Christians, driven by their anxiety for their 
wives and daughters to fight; and the Christians finding 
themselves at close quarters, and not wishing to dis- 
order their company of horse, drove their swords into 
the bodies of the young girls and women, and of all 
the eighty they left not even one alive. The Indians 
writhing with grief cried out, and said: "O wretched 
men, cruel Christians, you kill Iras!" (the women in 
that country are called Iras). They meant that to 
kill women is a sign of abominable, cruel and bestial 

13. Ten or fifteen leagues from Panama there was a 
great lord called Paris, who had great wealth of gold. 
The Christians went thither and he received them as 
though they were his brothers: he willingly pre- 
sented the captain with fifty thousand castellanos. It 
seemed to the captain and to the Christians that one 
who spontaneously gave that quantity, must have a 
great treasure; which was the aim and recompense of 
their effort. They dissimulated, saying they wished 
to depart: towards sunrise they returned and attacked 
the unsuspecting town ; and they set fire to it and burnt 
it. They killed and burnt many people, and stole other 
fifty or sixty thousand castellanos, and the prince, or lord 
fled to escape death or capture. 

14. He quickly assembled all the people he could, 
and in two or three days came upon the Christians, who 
were carrying away his hundred and thirty or forty 1 
thousand castellanos, and fell upon them manfully, killing 

1 The arithmetic of Las Casas is somewhat faulty in this place. 

Nicaragua 337 

fifty Christians, recapturing all the gold while the others 
escaped badly wounded. 

15. Afterwards, many Christians turned on the said 
lord and destroyed him and many of his people; they 
killed the rest with the usual servitude, so that to-day 
there is neither sign nor any vestige whatsoever that 
there was ever a town or born man where formerly was 
thirty leagues of dominion well populated. The murders 
and destruction done by that miserable man and his 
company in that kingdom which he devastated, are 
without number. 

The Province of Nicaragua 

In the year 1522 or 1523 this same tyrant invaded 
the most delightful province of Nicaragua to subjugate it ; 
it was an unlucky hour when he entered it. Who could 
adequately set forth the happiness, healthfulness, 
agreeableness, prosperity, and the number of dwellings 
and concourse of the people that were there ? it was truly 
a marvellous thing to see how full it was of towns, 
stretching for a length of nearly three or four leagues, 
thickly planted with the most marvellous fruit trees; 
which was the reason that there was such an immense 

2. So much injury and assassination, so much 
cruelty, wickedness and injustice, was done to those 
people by that tyrant, together with the others, his 
companions, that human language would not suffice 
to relate it; for he was accompanied by all those who 
had helped to destroy all the other kingdom. The 
land being flat and open, the natives could not hide in 
the mountains, and their country was so delightful, that 
it was with difficulty and great grief that they brought 
themselves to abandon it ; for this reason they suffered, 

33 8 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

and will suffer great persecutions, and they tolerated 
the tyranny and the slavery of the Christians to the 
extent of their endurance, and because they are naturally 
a very humble and pacific people. 

3. He sent fifty mounted soldiers, and had the in- 
habitants of a whole province, larger than the country 
of Rusenon 1 killed with lances, without leaving man 
nor woman, old nor young alive. He did this for a very 
trifling reason; such as because they did not come as 
soon as he called them, or because they did not bring 
him enough loads of maize, (which is the grain of that 
country) or enough Indians to serve him or some other 
of his company: the land being flat, no one could escape 
from their horses and from their infernal wrath. 

4. He sent some Spaniards to invade other provinces, 
which means to go and murder the Indians; and he let 
the assassins bring away as many Indians as they 
pleased from the peaceful settlements, to serve them; 
they put these Indians in chains so that they should 
not set down the loads weighing three arobas that they 
bound on their backs. And it happened sometimes 
out of the many times he did it, that out of four thou- 
sand Indians, not six individuals returned alive to their 
homes, because they were left dead by the way. 

5. And when some became tired, or lame on account 
of the great weights, or fell ill through hunger, fatigue 
and weakness, they cut off their heads at the neck so 
as not to loosen them from their chains, and the head 
fell to one side, and the body to the other. It may be 
imagined how their companions would feel. When 
orders were given for similar expeditions, the Indians, 
knowing from experience that none who started ever 
returned, went weeping, and sighing, and saying: 

1 Given in the Italian text as Ronciglione. 

Nicaragua 339 

"Those are the roads, we trod to serve the Christians; 
and although we laboured hard, we finally returned 
after some time to our own homes and to our wives and 
children ; but now we go without hope of ever returning, 
nor of seeing them again, or of having life any more. " 

6. Once, because it suited his inclination to make a 
new distribution of Indians, and also, they say, to take 
them from his enemies and give them to his friends, the 
Indians were unable to plant their crops; and as bread 
ran short, the Christians took from the Indians all the 
maize they had to maintain themselves and their 
children; in consequence more than twenty or thirty 
thousand souls died of hunger; and it happened, that a 
certain woman was driven by hunger to kill her own 
son for food. 

7. As each of the towns was a very pleasing garden, 
as has been said, the Christians settled in them; each 
one in the place that fell to his share or, (as they say,) 
was committed to his charge; each one carried on his 
own cultivation, supporting himself with the meagre 
provisions of the Indians, thus robbing them of their 
private lands and inheritances, by which they main- 
tained themselves. 

8. In this wise the Spaniards kept within their own 
houses all the Indian lords, the aged, the women, and the 
lads, all of whom they compelled to serve them day and 
night, without rest. They employed even the children, 
as soon as they could stand, in excess of their powers. 
And in this way they have wasted, and to-day still waste 
those few that are left, not allowing them to have either 
a home or anything of their own. In this they even 
surpassed the similar injustice they perpetrated in 

9. They have exhausted and oppressed, and caused 
the premature death of many people in this Province, 

34° Bartholomew de Las Casas 

making them carry planks and timber to build vessels 
in the port, thirty leagues distant; also by sending them 
to seek for honey and wax in the mountains, where they 
are devoured by tigers; and they have loaded and do 
still load pregnant and confined women, like animals. 

10. The most horrible pestilence that has principally 
destroyed this Province, was the license which that 
governor gave to the Spaniards, to ask slaves from the 
princes and lords of the towns. Every four or five 
months, or whenever one obtained the favour or license 
from the said governor, he asked the lord for fifty 
slaves threatening, if he did not give them, to burn him 
alive or to deliver him to fierce dogs. 

ii. As the Indians usually do not keep slaves and, 
at most a lord has two or three or four, the lords went 
through their towns and took, first all the orphans; 
next, of those who had two children they asked one, and 
of those who had three, two: and in this way the lord 
completed the number demanded by the tyrant, amidst 
great wailing and weeping in the town, for they seem, 
more than any other people, to love their children. 

12. By such conduct from the year 1523 to 1533, they 
ruined all this kingdom. During six or seven years, 
five or six vessels carried on this traffic, taking all this 
multitude of Indians to sell them as slaves in Panama 
and Peru, where they all died. It has been verified 
and experienced a thousand times that, by taking the 
Indians away from their native country, they at once 
die more easily: because the Spaniards habitually give 
them little to eat and never relieve them from labour, 
for they are only sold by some and bought by others, 
to make them work. In this way they have carried off 
more than five hundred thousand souls from this 
province making slaves of people who were as free 
as I am. 

New Spain 341 

13. In their infernal wars and the horrible captivity 
into which they put the Indians tip to the present time, 
the Spaniards have killed more than another five or 
six hundred thousand persons, and they still continue. 
All these massacres have occurred in the space of four- 
teen years. At present they kill daily in the said province 
of Nicaragua, from four to five thousand persons, with 
servitude and continual oppression; it being, as was 
said, one of the most populous in the world. 

New Spain 

New Spain was discovered in the year 1517. 1 And 
the discoverers gave serious offence to the Indians in that 
discovery, and committed several homicides. In the 
year 15 18 men calling themselves Christians went there 
to ravage and to kill ; although they say that they go to 
populate. And from the said year 1 518, till the present 
day (and we are in 1542) all the iniquity, all the injustice, 
all the violence and tyranny that the Christians have 
practised in the Indies have reached the limit and 
overflowed: because they have entirely lost all fear of 
God and the King, they have forgotten themselves as 
well. So many and such are the massacres and cruelty, 
the murder and destruction, the pillage and theft, the 
violence and tyranny throughout the numerous king- 
doms of the great continent, that everything told by me 
till now is nothing compared to what was practised here. 

2. Yet, even had we related everything, including 
what we have omitted, it would not be comparable, 
either in number or magnitude, to the acts which, from 
the said year 15 18 till the present day of this year 1542 
have been committed. In this day of the month of 

1 By Juan de Grijalba. 

34 2 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

September the gravest and most abominable acts are 
done and committed; because the rule we have men- 
tioned above verifies itself, that from the commencement 
onwards they have ever been increasing in greater 
wickedness and infernal works. 

3. Consequently, from the invasion of New Spain, 
which was on April 18th of the said year 15 18 till the 
year 1530, which was twelve entire years, the murders 
and the massacres lasted. With bloody hands and 
cruel swords the Spaniards continually wrought in 
nearly four hundred and fifty leagues of country belong- 
ing to the City of Mexico and its surroundings, which 
numbers four or five great kingdoms, as large and much 
more delightful than Spain. 

4. All these countries were more populous than 
Toledo, Seville, Valladolid, and Zaragoza, together with 
Barcelona; because these cities have not, nor did they 
ever have so many inhabitants when they were at their 
fullest, as God placed, and as are to be found in all the 
said leagues; to go around which, one must walk more 
than a thousand and eight hundred leagues. 

5. In the said twelve years more than four million 
souls have been killed by the Spaniards with swords 
and lances, and by burning alive women and children, 
young and old in the said extent of 450 leagues, during 
the time what they call "conquests" lasted. In fact, 
they were violent invasions by cruel tyrants, condemned 
not only by the divine law, but by all human laws ; they 
were much worse than those of the Turks to destroy the 
Christian Church. Besides all this, there are the deaths 
they have caused, and cause every day by the tyrannical 
servitude, the daily afflictions and oppressions above 

6. Neither language, nor knowledge, nor human 
industry could suffice to relate in detail the dreadful 

New Spain 343 

operations of those public and mortal enemies of the 
human race, acting in concert in some places and singly 
in others, within the aforesaid circuit. In truth, re- 
specting the circumstances and conditions that rendered 
certain deeds more grievous, no exercise of diligence, 
and time and writing could hardly explain them suf- 
ficiently. However I will recount something of some 
of the countries, protesting on my oath, that I believe 
I am not telling the thousandth part. 

Among other massacres there was one took place in a 
town of more than thirty thousand inhabitants called 
Cholula; all the lords of the land, and its surroundings, 
and above all the priests, with the high priest came out 
in procession to meet the Christians, with great sub- 
mission and reverence, and conducted them in their 
midst to lodge in the town in the dwelling houses of the 
prince, or principal lords; the Spaniards determined 
on a massacre here or, as they say, a chastisement to 
sow terror and the fame of their valour throughout that 
country, because in all the lands the Spaniards have 
invaded, their aim has always been to make them- 
selves feared of those meek lambs, by a cruel and signal 

2. To accomplish this, they first sent to summon all 
the lords and nobles of the town and of all its depen- 
dencies, together with the principal lord ; and when they 
came, and began to speak to the captain of the Spaniards, 
they were promptly captured, without any one who could 
give the alarm, noticing it. 

3. They had asked for five or six thousand Indians 
to carry their baggage, all of whom immediately came 
and were confined in the courtyards of the houses. To 
see these Indians when they prepared themselves to 
carry the loads of the Spaniards, was a thing to excite 

344 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

great compassion for they come naked, with only the 
private parts covered, and with some little nets on their 
shoulders containing their meagre food ; they all sit down 
on their heels, like so many meek lambs. 

4. Being all collected and assembled in the court- 
yard, with other people who were there, some armed 
Spaniards were stationed at the gates of the courtyard 
to guard them: thereupon all the others seized their 
swords and lances, and butchered all those lambs, not 
even one escaping. 

5. Two or three days later, many Indians who had 
hidden, and saved themselves under the dead bodies 
(so many were they) came out alive covered with blood, 
and they went before the Spaniards, weeping and asking 
for mercy, that they should not kill them: no mercy* 
nor any compassion was shown them; on the contrary, 
as they came out, the Spaniards cut them to pieces. 

6. More than one hundred of the lords whom they 
had bound, the captain commanded to be burned, and 
impaled alive on stakes stuck in the ground. One 
lord however, perhaps the chief and king of that 
country, managed to free himself, and with twenty or 
thirty or forty other men, he escaped to the great 
temple, which was like a fortress and was called Quu, 
where they defended themselves during a great part 
of the day. 

7. But the Spaniards, from whom nothing is safe, 
especially among these people destitute of weapons, set 
fire to the temple and burned them, they crying out: 
"wretched men! what have we done unto you? why do 
you kill us ? go then ! in Mexico you will find our universal 
lord Montezuma who will take vengeance upon you for 
us. " It is said, that while those five, or six thousand 
men were being put to the sword in the courtyard, the 
captain of the Spaniards stood singing. 

New Spain 345 

Mira Nero de Tarpeya 
A Roma como se ardia. 
Gritos dan nifios y viejos, 
Y el de nada se dolia. 1 

8. They perpetrated another great slaughter in the 
town of Tepeaca, which was much larger and more popu- 
lous than Cholula; they put numberless people to the 
sword with great and particular kinds of cruelty. 

9. From Cholula they took their way towards Mexico ; 
and the great king Montezuma sent them thousands of 
presents ; and lords and people came to meet them with 
festivities while on their arrival at the paved road to 
Mexico, which is two leagues long, his own brother ap- 
peared, accompanied by many great lords bearing many 
presents of gold, silver and clothing. At the entrance of 
the city he himself descended from a golden litter, with all 
his great court to receive them and to accompany them 
to the palaces, where he had given orders they should 
be lodged; on that same day, according to what was 
told me by some of those present, they managed by 
some feint, while he suspected nothing, to take the great 
king Montezuma prisoner; and then they put him in 
fetters and placed a guard of eighty men over him. 

10. But leaving all this, of which there would be 
many, and great things to say, I only wish to relate a 
notable thing that those tyrants did here. When the 
captain of the Spaniards went to capture a certain other 
captain, 2 who came to attack him, he left one of his 

1 Nero from the Tarpeian Rock views 
How Rome is burning. 
Old and young are standing weeping, 
He by nothing is afflicted. 
2 The expedition under Narvaez, sent by Velasquez to capture 

346 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

captains with, I think, a hundred men or more, to 
keep guard over the king Montezuma; these Spaniards 
decided to do another extraordinary thing to increase 
the fear of them throughout the land, a practice, as I 
have said, to which they often resorted. 

ii. All the Indians, plebeians as well as nobles of 
Montezuma's capital and court, thought of nothing else 
but to give pleasure to their captive monarch. Among 
other festivals they celebrated for him, one was the 
performance in all the quarters and squares of the city 
of those customary dances, called by them mitotes, and 
in the islands, areytos. In these dances they wear all 
their richest ornaments, and as this is their principal 
enjoyment and festivity, all take part in it. The 
greatest nobles and knights and those of royal blood, 
according to their rank, performed their dances and 
ceremonies nearest the buildings where their sovereign 
was a prisoner. 

12. More than 2000 sons of lords were assembled in 
the place nearest to the said palaces who were the flower 
and the best nobility of all Montezuma's empire. The 
captain [Alvarado] of the Spaniards went thither with a 
squadron of his men and he sent other squadrons to all 
the other parts of the city, where they were performing 
the said dances, pretending that they went to witness 
them; and he commanded that at a certain hour all 
should fall upon them. 

13. And while the Indians were intent on their 
dances in all security he cried, Santiago! and fell upon 
them; with their drawn swords the Spaniards pierced 
those naked and delicate bodies, and shed that generous 
blood, so that not even one was left alive. The same 
was done by the others in the other squares. 

14. This was a thing that filled all those king- 
doms and people with amazement, anguish, lamentation 

New Spain 347 

bitterness and grief. And until the end of the world, 
or till they are entirely destroyed, they will not cease 
in their dances, to lament and sing — as we say here in 
romances, — that calamity and the destruction of all their 
hereditary nobility, in whom they had gloried for so 
many years back. 

15. Upon witnessing such injustice and unheard of 
cruelty, inflicted upon so many innocent and inoffensive 
people, the Indians, who had tolerated with patience the 
equally unjust imprisonment of their supreme monarch, 
because he himself had commanded them to refrain 
from attacking or making war on the Christians, now 
took up arms throughout the city and attacked the 
Spaniards, many of whom were wounded and with 
difficulty found safety in flight. 

16. Threatening the captive Montezuma with a 
dagger at his breast, they forced him to show himself 
on the battlements, and to command the Indians to 
cease besieging the house and calm themselves. His 
subjects had no mind to obey him any further, but on 
the contrary, they conferred about electing another 
sovereign and commander who would lead them in their 

17. As the captain [Cortes] who had gone to the port, 
was already returning victorious, and had announced 
his approach and was bringing with him many more 
Christians, the fighting ceased for three or four days, 
until he entered the city. When he had entered and 
numberless people were assembled from all the country, 
the fighting became so general and lasted for so many 
days that the Spaniards, fearing they would all perish, 
decided to leave the city by night. 

18. Learning their intention, the Indians killed a 
great number of Christians on the bridges of the lagoon, 
in what was a most just and holy war; for their cause was 

34 8 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

most just, as has been said, and will be approved by any- 
reasonable and fair man. After the fighting in the city, 
the Christians were re-inforced and executed strange 
and marvellous slaughter among the Indians, killing 
numberless people and burning many alive including 
great lords. 1 

19. After the greatest and abominable tyranny 
practised by these men in the City of Mexico, and in 
the towns throughout the country for ten, fifteen and 
twenty leagues in those parts, during which numberless 
people were killed, this, their tyrannical pestilence 
passed onwards, spreading into, infecting and ruining 
the province of Panuco, where there was a marvellous 
multitude of people : equally marvellous were the massa- 
cres and slaughter that they performed there. 

20. Afterwards they destroyed the province of 
Tututepeche in the same way; then the province of 
Spilcingo; then that of Colima; each of which is larger 
than the kingdoms of Leon and of Castile. To describe 
the massacres, slaughter, and cruelty which they 
practised in each, would doubtless be a most difficult 
thing, impossible to confirm and disagreeable to listen 

21. Here it must be noted, that the pretext with 
which they invaded and began to destroy all those 
innocent beings and to depopulate those lands which, on 
account of their numberless populations should have 
caused such joy and contentment to true Christians, 
was, that they came to subject them to the King of Spain ; 
otherwise, they must kill them and make slaves of 

1 The many glaring misstatements and inaccuracies in this 
account of the conquest of Mexico are due to the fact that Las 
Casas is relating from hearsay, as he knew nothing from his own 
observation. His description of the tribes of Anahuac as 
"meek lambs" is quite erroneous. 

New Spain 349 

them. And those, who did not promptly yield obedience 
to such an unreasonable and stupid commission, and 
refused to place themselves in the hands of such iniqui- 
tous, cruel and brutal men, they declared were rebels, 
who had risen against the service of His Majesty; and 
thus they wrote from here to our lord the King. 

22. And the blindness of those who govern the 
Indians, did not understand nor attend to what is 
expressed in their laws, and is clearer than any of their 
first principles whatsoever, namely; that no one can be 
called rebel, if he be not first a subject. 

23. Let Christians and those that have some know- 
ledge of God, and of reason, and also of human laws, 
consider to what state can be reduced the hearts of 
whatsoever people who live in security in their own 
country ignorant of having obligations towards any one, 
and who have their own rightful rulers, upon being thus 
unexpectedly ordered to yield obedience to a foreign 
King whom they have never seen, nor heard of, otherwise 
be it known to you, that we must at once cut you to 
pieces; especially when they actually see the threat put 
into execution. 

24. More dreadful is it that those who obey volun- 
tarily, are put into onerous servitude; in which, under 
incredible labour and tortures that last longer than those 
of death by the sword, they and their wives and children 
and all their race perish. 

25. And although these people, or any other in the 
world are moved by fear or the said threats to yield 
obedience and to recognise the dominion of a foreign 
King, our blinded people, unbalanced by ambitious and 
diabolical avarice, do not perceive that they thereby 
acquire not a single atom of right, these fears being 
truly such as discourage the firmest men. 

26. To say that natural, human and divine right 

35° Bartholomew de Las Casas 

permits their acts because the intention justifies them, 
is all wind: but their crime condemns them to infernal 
fire, as do also the offences and injuries done to the Kings 
of Castile, by destroying these their kingdoms and 
annihilating (as far as they possibly can) their rights over 
all the Indies. These, and none other, are the services 
the Spaniards have rendered, and do render to-day to 
the said sovereign kings in these countries. 

27. By this just and approved title, did this tyrant 
captain send two other tyrant captains, much more 
cruel and ferocious and more destitute of compassion 
and mercy than himself, to the vast, most flourishing, 
most happy and densely populated kingdoms, namely 
to that of Guatemala, on the South Sea ; and to that of 
Naco and Honduras or Guaymura, on the North Sea. 
They lie opposite one another, bordering, but separate, 
and each three hundred leagues distant from Mexico. 
He sent one expedition by land and the other with 
ships by sea, each provided with many horsemen and 

28. I state the truth: Out of the evil done by both, 
and especially by him who went to the kingdom of 
Guatemala, — because the other soon died a bad death — 
I could collect and recount so much wickedness, so 
many massacres, so many deaths, so much extermination, 
so much and such frightful injustice, that they would 
strike terror to present and future ages: and I could 
fill a big book with them, for this man surpassed all the 
past and the present in the kind and multitude of 
abominations he committed; in the people he destroyed 
and in the countries he devastated, for they were infinite. 

29. The one who commanded the expedition by 
sea, committed great robberies and scandal; destroying 
many people in the towns along the coast. Some natives 
came out to receive him with presents in the kingdom 

New Spain 351 

of Yucatan, which is on the road to the above mentioned 
kingdom of Naco and Guaymura, where he was going; 
when he arrived there, he sent captains and many 
people throughout that country, who robbed, killed 
and destroyed everything and everybody they found. 

30. One especially of these captains who had mutinied 
with three hundred men, and had entered the country 
towards Guatemala, advanced destroying and burning 
every place he found, robbing and killing the people; 
he did this diligently for more than a hundred and twenty 
leagues, so that if others were sent in pursuit of him, 
they would find the country depopulated and in rebellion, 
and would be killed by the Indians in revenge for the 
damage and destruction he had done. 

31. A few days later they [the Spaniards] killed the 
principal captain who had sent him and against whom 
he had mutinied. Afterwards there succeeded other 
most cruel tyrants who, with slaughter and dreadful 
cruelty, and with the capture of slaves and the selling 
them to the ships that brought their wine, clothing and 
other things, and with the usual tyrannical servitude 
from the year 1524 till 1535, ruined those provinces and 
that kingdom of Naco and Honduras, which truly 
seemed a paradise of delight, and was better peopled 
than the most populous land in the world. We have now 
gone through these countries on foot and have beheld 
such desolation and destruction as would wring the 
vitals of the hardest-hearted of men. 

In these eleven years they have killed more than two 
million souls, and in more than a hundred leagues 
square, they have not left two thousand persons, whom 
they are now daily exterminating by the said servitude. 

32. Let us again speak of the great tyrant captain, 1 

1 Pedro de Alvarado. 

35 2 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

who went to the kingdom of Guatemala, who, as has 
been said, surpassed all past and equalled all present 
tyrants. The provinces surrounding Mexico are, by the 
route he took (according to what he himself writes in a 
letter to his chief who sent him) , four hundred leagues 
distant from the kingdom of Guatemala: he advanced 
killing, ravaging, burning, robbing and destroying all 
the country wherever he came, under the above men- 
tioned pretext, namely, that the Indians should sub- 
ject themselves to such inhuman, unjust, and cruel men, 
in the name of the unknown King of Spain, of whom they 
had never heard and whom they considered to be much 
more unjust and cruel than his representatives. He 
also gave them no time to deliberate but would fall 
upon them, killing and burning almost at the same in- 
stant that his envoy arrived. 

The Province and Kingdom of Guatemala 

When he reached this kingdom, he began with a great 
massacre. Nevertheless the principal lord, accompanied 
by many other lords of Ultatlan, the chief town of all 
the kingdom went forth with trumpets, tambourines and 
great festivity to receive him with litters; they served 
him with all that they possessed, and especially by giving 
him ample food and everything else they could. 

2. The Spaniards lodged outside the town that night 
because it seemed to them to be strong, and that they 
might run some risk inside it. The following day, the 
captain called the principal lord and many others, and 
when they came like tame lambs, he seized them and 
demanded so many loads of gold. They replied that 
they had none, because that country does not produce it. 
Guiltless of other fault and without trial or sentence, he 
immediately ordered them to be burned alive. 

Guatemala 353 

3. When the rulers throughout all those provinces 
saw that the Spaniards had burnt that one and all those 
chief lords, only because they gave them no gold, they 
all fled from their towns and hid in the mountains ; they 
commanded all their people to go to the Spaniards and 
serve them as their lords, but that they should not, 
however, reveal to them their hiding place. 

4. All the inhabitants came to offer themselves to his 
men and to serve them as their lords. This compassion- 
ate captain replied that he would not receive them ; on the 
contrary, he would kill them all, if they did not disclose 
the whereabouts of their chiefs. The Indians answered 
that they knew nothing about them but that the Span- 
iards should make use of them, of their wives and 
children whom they would find in their houses, where 
they could kill them or do with them what they wished. 
And this the Indians declared and offered many times. 

5. Stupefying to relate, the Spaniards went to the 
houses where they found the poor people working in 
safety at their occupations with their wives and children, 
and there they wounded them with their lances and cut 
them to pieces. They also went to a quiet, large and 
important town, where the people were ignorant of 
what had happened to the others and were safe in their 
innocence; within barely two hours they destroyed it, 
putting women, children, and the aged to the sword, 
and killing all who did not save themselves by flight. 

6. Seeing that with such humility, submission, pa- 
tience and suffering they could not break nor soften 
hearts so inhuman and brutal, and that they were thus 
cut to pieces contrary to every show or shadow of right, 
and that they must inevitably perish, the Indians deter- 
mined to summon all their people together and to die 
fighting, avenging themselves as best they could on 
such cruel and infernal enemies ; they well knew, how- 


354 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

ever, that being not only unarmed but also naked and on 
foot, they could not prevail against such fierce people, 
mounted and so well armed, but must in the end be 

7. They constructed some pits in the middle of the 
streets, covered over with broken boughs of trees and 
grass, completely concealing them: they were filled with 
sharp stakes hardened by fire which would be driven 
into the horses's bellies if they fell into the pits. Once, 
or twice, did some horses fall in but not often, because the 
Spaniards knew how to avoid them. In revenge, the 
Spaniards made a law, that all Indians of whatsoever 
rank and -age whom they captured alive, they would 
throw into the pits. And so they threw in pregnant 
and confined women, children, old men and as many 
as they could capture who were left stuck on the stakes, 
until the pits were filled: It excited great compassion 
to see them, particularly the women with their children. 

8. They killed all the others with lances and knives; 
they threw them to savage dogs, that tore them to 
pieces and ate them; and when they came across some 
lord, they accorded him the honour of burning in live 
flames. This butchery lasted about seven years from 
1524 to 1531. From this may be judged what numbers 
of people they destroyed. 

9. Among the numberless horrible operations that 
this unhappy and accursed tyrant performed in this 
kingdom, together with his brothers, (for his captains 
and the others who helped him, were not less unhappy 
and senseless than he) was one very notorious one. He 
went to the province of Cuzcatan, in which, or not far 
distant, there is the town of San Salvador, which is a 
most delightful place extending all along the coast of 
the South Sea from forty to fifty leagues : and the town of 
Cuzcatan, which was the capital of the province, gave 

Guatemala 355 

him the kindest of welcomes, sending him more than 
twenty or thirty Indians loaded with fowls and other 

10. When he arrived, and had received the gift, he 
commanded that each Spaniard should take from that 
multitude of people, as many Indians as he pleased for 
his service during their stay there, whose duty should 
be to bring them everything they needed. Each 
Spaniard took a hundred, or fifty or as many as 
he reckoned would be sufficient for his service, and 
those innocent lambs bore with the distribution, 
and served with all their strength, and almost adored 

ii. In the meantime this captain asked the lords 
to bring him much gold, because it was principally to 
that end that they came. The Indians replied that they 
were happy to give all the gold they had, and they 
collected a very great quantity of the hatchets they use, 
which are made of gilded copper and look like gold, 
though there is little on them. The captain ordered that 
they should be tested and because he saw they were of 
copper, he said to the Spaniards: "to the devil with 
such a country ! let us leave it since there is no gold and 
let each one put the Indians who serve him, in chains, 
and I will order that they be branded as his slaves. " 
This was done, and they marked as slaves with the King's 
brand, all they could bind. And I saw the son of the 
prince of that town thus branded. 

12. When those Indians who escaped and the others 
throughout the land beheld such great iniquity, they be- 
gan. to collect and to arm themselves. The Spaniards did 
the greatest slaughter and massacre among them, after 
which they returned to Guatemala where they built a 
town ; and it is that one which has now been by righteous 
decree of divine justice, destroyed by three deluges 

356 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

together: the one of water, the other of earth and the 
third of stones much bigger than ten, and twenty- 

13. Having thus killed all the lords and the men who 
could have made war, they put all the others into the 
aforesaid infernal slavery; they demanded slaves as 
tribute, so the Indians gave their sons and daughters 
as they have no other slaves, all of whom they loaded 
into ships and sent to be sold in Peru. By other mas- 
sacres and murders, besides the above, they have 
destroyed and devastated a kingdom more than a 
hundred leagues square, one of the happiest in the way 
of fertility and population in the world. This same 
tyrant wrote that it was more populous than the kingdom 
of Mexico; and he told the truth. 

14. He and his brothers, together with the others, 
have killed more than four or five million people in 
fifteen or sixteen years, from the year 1524 till 1540, and 
they continue to kill and destroy those who are still 
left ; and so they will kill the remainder. 

15. It was his custom when he went to make war 
on some town or province, to take with him as many 
of the Indians as he could, to fight against the others; 
and as he led ten or twenty thousand and gave them 
nothing to eat, he allowed them to eat the Indians they 
captured. And so a solemn butchery of human flesh 
took place in his army where, in his presence, children 
were killed and roasted ; and they would kill a man only 
to eat his hands and feet, which were esteemed the best 
bits. And all the people of the other countries, hearing 
of these villainies, were so terror stricken they knew not 
where to hide themselves. 

16. They killed numberless people with the labour 
of building boats. From the South Sea to the North, 
a distance of a hundred and thirty leagues, they led 

Guatemala 357 

the Indians loaded with anchors weighing seventy and 
eighty pounds each — some of which wore into their should- 
ers and loins. They also carried much artillery in this 
way on the shoulders of those poor naked creatures ; and 
I saw many of them loaded with artillery, suffering 
along the roads. 

17. They deprived the husbands of their wives 
and daughters, and gave them to the sailors and 
soldiers, to keep them contented and bring them on 
board the ships. They crowded Indians into the 
ships, where they all perished of hunger and thirst. 
And in truth, were I to recount his cruelties one by 
one, I could make a big book that would astonish 
the world. 

18. He built two fleets, each composed of many ships, 
with which he burnt, as though with fire from heaven, all 
those countries. Of how many did he make orphans! 
Of how many did he take away the children! How 
many did he deprive of their wives! how many wives 
did he leave without husbands! Of what adulteries, 
rapes and violence was he the cause ! how many did he 
deprive of liberty! what anguish and calamity were 
suffered by many people because of him! what tears 
did he cause to be shed ! what sighs ! what groans ! what 
solitude in this life and of how many has he caused the 
eternal damnation in the next! not only of the Indians 
— who were numberless — but of the unhappy Christians, 
of whose company he made himself worthy, with such 
outrages, most grave sins and execrable abominations. 
And I pray God, that he may have had compassion on 
him and be appeased with the bad death to which he at 
last brought him. 1 

1 Pedro de Alvarado was kicked to death by a horse. When 
asked, as he lay dying, where he suffered most, he replied, " In 
my soul. " 

35 8 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

New Spain and Panuco and Xalisco 

After the great cruelties and massacres, that have been 
described (besides those not mentioned) had been com- 
mitted in the provinces of New Spain and that of Panuco, 
another senseless and cruel tyrant l arrived in Panuco in 
the year 1525. By committing great cruelty and putting 
many in irons, and enslaving great numbers of freemen 
in the ways above told, and sending shiploads of them 
to the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola, where they could 
best he sold, he finished devastating all that province. 
Eighty Indians, reasonable beings, were given in ex- 
change for a horse. 

2. From Panuco, he was sent to govern the city of 
Mexico and all New Spain as President, with other great 
tyrants as Auditors: and the great evils, many sins and 
the amount of cruelty, robbery, and abomination he and 
they together committed, are beyond belief. They thus 
reduced all that country to such extreme ruin, that in 
two years they would have brought New Spain to the 
condition of the island of Hispaniola, had God not pre- 
vented them by the resistance of the Franciscan friars 
and afterwards, by the appointment of a Royal Audiencia 
composed of good men, friendly to all virtue. 

3. One of this man's companions forced eight thou- 
sand Indians to work, without any payment or food, at 
building a wall around his great garden; they dropped 
dead from hunger but he showed no concern whatever. 

4. When this president, of whom I said he finished 
devastating Panuco, learned that the said good royal 
Audiencia was coming, he found an excuse to go inland to 
discover some place where he might tyrannise ; he forced 
fifteen, or twenty thousand men of the province of Mex- 
ico to carry the baggage of his expedition, of whom 

1 Nuno de Guzman. 

Panuco and Xalisco 359 

not two hundred returned, all the rest having perished 
under his tyranny. 

5. He arrived in the province of Mechuacan, which is 
forty leagues distant from Mexico and similar to it, both 
in prosperity, and in the number of its people. The king 
and ruler came out to receive him with a procession 
of numberless people, rendering a thousand services and 
making him presents; he at once took the said king 
prisoner because he was reputed to have great riches of 
gold and silver: to force him to surrender his many 
treasures, the tyrant began to put him to the following 

6. Having put his feet in stocks, with his body 
stretched and his hands tied to pieces of wood, they 
placed a pan of fire near his feet, and a boy with a 
sprinkler soaked in oil, sprinkled them every now and 
then to burn the skin well. On the one side there stood 
a cruel man with a loaded arbalist aimed at his heart: 
on the other stood another holding a terrible and fierce 
dog which, had he let it, would have torn the king to 
pieces in a moment ; and thus they tortured him to make 
him disclose the treasures; until a Franciscan monk, 
being informed of it, delivered him from their hands, 
though he died at last of his tortures. They tortured 
and killed many lords and princes of the provinces in like 
fashion, to make them give up their gold and silver. 

7. At this time a certain tyrant, going as inspector 
rather of the purses and the property of the Indians 
than of their souls and bodies, found that some Indians 
had hidden their idols, as the Spaniards had never 
taught them about another better God. He took the 
lords prisoner till they gave him the idols, thinking they 
would be of gold or silver, and because they were not, 
he punished them cruelly and unjustly. 

8. And not to be defrauded of this purpose, which 

360 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

was to rob, he compelled the said lords to buy back the 
idols from him: they bought them with such gold and 
silver as they could find, to adore them as their God like 
they were accustomed. These are the works these 
wretched Spaniards perform, and the example that they 
give, and the honour they procure for God in the Indies. 

9. This great tyrant passed from the province of 
Mechuacan into that of Xalisco, which was as full of 
people as a hive is of bees, most populous and most 
prosperous, because it is one of the most fertile and mar- 
vellous in the Indies. There was a certain town whose 
houses extended nearly seven leagues. On his arrival 
there, the lords and people came joyfully forth, bearing 
gifts, as all the Indians are in the habit of doing when 
they go to receive any one. 

10. He began to commit the usual cruelties and 
wickedness as all there are in the habit of doing, 
and much more besides, to obtain the object they hold 
as God, which is gold. 

11. He burnt the towns, captured the lords, tortured 
them — made slaves of everybody he captured and led 
numbers away in chains. Women just confined were 
loaded down with the baggage they carried for the 
wicked Christians and, not being able to carry their 
infants for fatigue and the weakness of hunger, they 
threw them by the roadside where numbers perished. 

12. One wicked Christian having seized a maid by 
force, to sin with her, the mother sprang to tear her away 
from him, but he seized a dagger, or sword, and cut off 
the mother's hand; and because the maid would not 
consent, he stabbed her and killed her. 

13. Among many other free people he unjustly 
caused to be marked as slaves, were four thousand five 
hundred men, women, and nursing children of a year old; 
others also of two, three, four and five years old, although 

Panuco and Xalisco 361 

they went forth peacefully to meet him; there were 
numberless others that were not counted. 

14. When the countless iniquitous and infernal wars 
and massacres were terminated, he laid all that country 
under the usual, pestilential and tyrannical servitude 
to which all the tyrant Christians of the Indies are in 
the habit of reducing these peoples. In which he con- 
sented that his own majordomos and all the others, 
should use cruelty and unheard of tortures to extract 
gold and tribute from the Indians. 

15. One majordomo of his killed many peaceable 
Indians, by hanging, burning them alive, throwing them 
to fierce dogs, and cutting off their feet and hands and 
tearing out their tongues and hearts, for no other reason 
than to frighten them into submission and into giving 
him gold and tribute, as soon as they recognised him as 
the same celebrated tyrant. He also gave them many 
cruel beatings, cudgellings, blows and other kinds of 
cruelty every day and every hour. 

16. It is told of him that he destroyed and burnt 
eight hundred towns in that kingdom of Xalisco: he 
goaded the Indians to rebellion out of sheer desperation, 
and after they saw such numbers perish so cruelly, they 
killed some Spaniards, in which they were perfectly 
justified, and then retreated to the mountains. 

17. Afterwards, the injustice and oppression of other 
recent tyrants who passed that way to destroy other 
provinces — which they called discovering them, — drove 
many Indians to unite and to fortify themselves among 
certain cliffs: against them the Spaniards have again 
perpetrated such cruelty, killing numberless people, that 
they have almost finished depopulating and destroying 
all that large country. 

18. These wretched, blind men whom God has per- 
mitted to yield to reprobate appetite, do not perceive 

362 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the Indians' cause, or rather the many causes sanctioned 
by every justice, and by the laws of nature, of God, 
and of man, to cut them to pieces, whenever they have 
the strength and weapons, and to drive them from their 
countries: nor do they perceive the iniquity and great 
injustice of their own pretensions, which are condemned 
by all laws, not to mention the many outrages, tyran- 
nies and grave and inexpiable sins they have com- 
mitted against the Indians, by repeatedly making war 
on them: seeing nothing of this, they think and say and 
write, that the victories they obtain over the innocent 
Indians by destroying them, are all conceded to them 
by their God, because their iniquitous wars are just. 
Almost as though they rejoiced, and glorified, and 
rendered thanks to God for their tyranny: like those 
tyrant bandits did of whom the prophet Zacharias says 
in chapter eleven Pasce pecora occisionis, qua qui 
occidebant non dolebant, sed dicebant: Benedictus Deus, 
quia divites facti sumus. 

The Kingdom of Yucatan 

In the year 1526, by lying and deceiving and by mak- 
ing offers to the King, as all the other tyrants have done 
till now to obtain offices and positions, so as to rob, 
another unhappy man 1 was elected governor of the king- 
dom of Yucatan. 

2. This kingdom possessed a dense population, be- 
cause the country is very healthy and abounding much 
more than Mexico in provisions and fruit: and honey 
was particularly abundant, more so than in any other 
part of the Indies thus far discovered. 

3. The said kingdom has a circumference of about 
three hundred leagues. Its people were famous among 

1 Francisco de Montejo, who invaded Yucatan in 1527. 

Yucatan 363 

all those of the Indies for prudence and cleanliness, and 
for having fewer vices and sins than any other ; and they 
were very willing and worthy of being brought to the 
knowledge of God. A great town might have been built 
there by the Spaniards where they might have lived as 
in a terrestrial paradise had they been worthy; but, on 
account of their great avarice, stupidity and grave sins 
they were not; just as they have not been worthy to 
possess the many other countries that God has disclosed 
to them, in the Indies. 

4. This tyrant, with three hundred men whom he 
brought with him, began by making cruel war on those 
good and innocent people, who kept within their houses 
without offending any one ; and they killed and destroyed 
countless people. 

5. The country produces no gold, and if it had he 
would have used up the people by working them in the 
mines ; to coin gold therefore out of the bodies and souls 
of those for whom Jesus Christ died, he made slaves 
indifferently of all whom he did not kill ; many ships were 
attracted thither by the news that slaves were to be had, 
all of which he sent back loaded with human beings 
whom he sold for wine, oil, vinegar, pork, clothing, horses 
and whatever else he and his men thought they needed. 

6. He selected the most beautiful maid from fifty or 
a hundred, and gave her to him who chose her, in ex- 
change for an aroba of wine, or oil, or for a pig: and 
similarly a handsome boy, chosen from among two 
hundred or three hundred, for the same amount. One 
boy, who seemed to be the son of a prince was given in 
exchange for a cheese; and a hundred people for a horse. 

7. He continued with these operations from the year 
1526 to 1533 which were seven years, ruining and depopu- 
lating those countries, and killing those people without 
pity, till news of the riches of Peru reached the place 

364 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

and the Spaniards left him, and that hell ceased for some 

8. Afterwards, however, his ministers returned to 
commit more great evils, robbery, wickedness, and great 
offence against God: and neither have they ceased at 
the present time. Thus have they almost entirely 
depopulated all those three hundred leagues that were, 
as has been said, so densely peopled. 

9. No one could believe, neither could the particular 
cases of cruelty that were done here, be related. I will 
only tell of two or three, that I remember. 

10. On one occasion these wretched Spaniards set out 
with fierce dogs to hunt Indians, both women and men, 
and an Indian woman who was too ill to escape, took 
a cord and, so that the dogs should not tear her to 
pieces as they tore the others, she tied her little son of 
one year to one foot, and then hanged herself on a beam; 
she was not quick enough before the dogs came up and 
tore the child limb from limb, although a friar baptised it 
before it expired. 

11. When the Spaniards were leaving the kingdom, 
one of them asked the son of a lord of a certain town 
or province to go with him; the child answered, that he 
did not wish to leave his country: the Spaniard replied, 
" come along with me, or I will cut off your ears " ; as the 
boy said that he would not, the man seized a dagger and 
cut off one of his ears, and then the other; and on the 
boy still saying that he would not leave his country, he 
slit his nostrils, laughing as though he were only giving 
him a pinch. 

12. This lost soul lauded himself, and shamelessly 
boasted before a venerable monk that he tried his best 
to get many Indian women with child, because when 
they were pregnant he got a better price on selling them 
for slaves. 

Yucatan 365 

13. In this kingdom, or possibly in a province of 
New Spain, a Spaniard went hunting game, or rabbits, 
with his dogs; one day, not rinding anything to hunt, 
it seemed to him that the dogs were hungry, so he seized 
a little child from its mother and cut off its arms and 
legs with a dagger, giving each dog its portion and when 
they had eaten these pieces he threw that little body on 
the ground for all of them together. 

14. Consider only the inhumanity of the Spaniards 
in these parts and how God has let them fall into repro- 
bate appetite ; consider of what account they hold these 
people who are created in God's image and redeemed by 
His blood. But we shall see worse things below. 

15. Leaving the infinite and unheard of cruelties 
perpetrated by those who call themselves Christians, in 
this kingdom where there is no justice worth speaking 
of, I will conclude with this only: that when all the 
infernal tyrants had left, eager for and blinded by the 
riches of Peru, Fray Jacomo proceeded, with four monks 
of his Order of St. Francis, to that kingdom, to pacify 
it, and to preach and bring to Jesus Christ the remnant 
of people left from the infernal harvesting and the 
tyrannical massacres committed by the Spaniards during 
seven years; and I think that these monks went there 
in the year thirty-four. 

16. They sent ahead certain Indians from the pro- 
vince of Mexico as messengers, to inquire whether the 
natives were satisfied that the said monks should enter 
their country, to bring them news of the one only God, 
who is God and true Lord of all the world. 

17. They [the Indians] assembled many times and 
consulted about the thing, having first made many in- 
quiries as to what sort of men these were, who called 
themselves fathers and brothers, and as to what they 
laid claim; and in what they were different from the 

366 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Christians from whom they had suffered so many offences 
and such injustice. 

1 8. They resolved at last to receive them, on the 
condition that they came alone with no Spaniards. The 
monks promised this because the Viceroy of New Spain 
had granted them this privilege and had given orders 
that no more Spaniards except the monks were to be 
allowed to enter the country, nor should the Indians 
suffer any harm from the Christians. 

19. The friars, as is their custom, preached to those 
people the gospel of Christ, and the holy intentions of 
the king of Spain towards them. With such love and 
pleasure did they receive the doctrine and example of 
the monks, and so greatly did they rejoice over the news 
of the kings of Castile, of whom in all the past seven 
years the Spaniards had never given them information 
nor that there was any king other than he, who tyran- 
nised and destroyed here, that after the monks had 
preached there forty days, the lords of the country 
brought and consigned to them all their idols that they 
might burn them. 

20. And afterwards they gave them their own chil- 
dren, whom they love more than the light of their eyes, 
that they might train them. And they built them 
churches, monasteries and houses : and friars were invited 
to other provinces, to preach and bring the natives to the 
knowledge of God and of him whom they called the 
great king of Castile. 

21. And, persuaded by the monks, the Indians did 
a thing never done again up to the present day; and all 
that some of those Tyrants pretend about those king- 
doms being destroyed by the friars, is falsehood and lies. 

22. Twelve or fifteen lords, each ruling many vassals 
and large territories, assembled their people and, after 
taking their votes and consent, subjected themselves 

Yucatan 367 

of their own will to the dominion of the kings of Castile, 
receiving the Emperor, as King of Spain, for their 
supreme and universal sovereign; and they made some 
signs, like signatures, which I have in my possession, 
together with the attestations of the said friars. 

23. Just when this growth of faith inspired the 
friars with great joy and hope of drawing to Jesus Christ 
the still numerous people of that kingdom who survived 
the murders and unjust wars, eighteen Spanish tyrants 
on horse entered a certain part of the country with twelve 
others on foot, which makes thirty, and they brought 
with them many loads of idols taken from the Indians 
in other provinces. 

24. And the captain of the said thirty summoned a 
lord of the country where he had entered, and told him 
that he must take those loads of idols and distribute 
them throughout his country, trading each idol for an 
Indian man or woman, to make them slaves; he threat- 
ened to make war on the chief if he refused. 

25. Forced by fear, the said lord distributed the idols 
throughout all this territory and commanded all his 
vassals that they should accept and adore them, and 
give him Indian men and women as slaves for the 
Spaniards. In alarm, the Indians who had two children 
gave one of them, and those who had three gave two; 
and in this way they concluded that sacrilegious com- 
merce and the lord, or prince satisfied the Spaniards. 

26. One of these impious and infernal bandits, called 
Juan Garcia, when ill and near death, had under his bed 
two loads of idols and he commanded an Indian woman 
who served him, to be very careful not to exchange those 
idols for fowls, but each one for a slave because they were 
very valuable. And finally with this testament and oc- 
cupied with this thought the unhappy man died. And 
who doubts that he is buried in hell ? 

368 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

27. Consider therefore of what profit are the religion 
and the examples of Christianity of the Spaniards who 
go to the Indies; what honour they procure for God; 
how they work that he may be known and adored by 
those people ; what care they take that His holy faith 
be sown, grow and expand in those souls. And judge 
whether this be a less sin than Jeroboam's qui peccare 
fecit Israel by making two golden calves, for the people 
to adore. Or whether it equals that of Judas or causes 
more scandal. 

28. These then are the deeds of the Spaniards who 
go to the Indies; in their desire for gold they have 
numberless times sold, and do sell, and have forsworn 
Jesus Christ. 

29. When the Indians saw that the promise the 
monks made them that the Spaniards should not enter 
those provinces did not come true, and that the same 
Spaniards brought their idols from other countries to 
sell, after they had given all their own gods to the monks 
to be burned, so that they might adore the one true God, 
they became tumultuous and the whole country was 
enraged with the friars, to whom they said : 

30. Why have you lied and deceived us saying that 
Christians could not enter this country ? And why have 
you burnt our gods when your Christians bring gods 
from other provinces to sell to us? Were perhaps our 
gods not better than those of other nations ? 

31. The friars having nothing to reply, calmed them 
as best they could. They sought out the thirty Span- 
iards, telling them the harm they had done and beseech- 
ing them to depart, but they would not go; on the 
contrary they gave the Indians to understand, that it 
was the friars themselves who had made them come 
there, — which was the height of all malice. 

32. At last the Indians determined to kill the friars; 

Yucatan 369 

being warned by some Indian, the latter escaped one 
night. And when the friars had left, and the Indians 
perceived their innocence and virtue and the malice 
of the Spaniards, they sent messengers a distance of 
fifty leagues after them, praying them to return, and 
asking their pardon for the anxiety they had caused 

33. The friars, being servants of God and zealous 
for those souls, gave them credence, and returned to the 
country where they were received like angels, the In- 
dians rendering them a thousand services; and they 
stayed there four or five months longer. 

34. As that country was so distant from New Spain, 
the Viceroy's efforts to expel those Christians from it 
were fruitless, and they persisted in remaining there 
although he had them proclaimed traitors; and because 
they never ceased their outrages and habitual oppres- 
sion of the Indians, it seemed to the monks that, 
sooner or later the natives would become disgusted 
with such perverse works, and that perhaps the evil 
consequences would fall on them, especially as the evil 
deeds of the Spaniards constantly disturbed the Indians 
and prevented them from preaching to them in tran- 
quillity. They therefore determined to abandon the 

35. Thus the country was left without the light and 
help of doctrine; and those souls were abandoned to the 
obscurity of ignorance and misery, in which they for- 
merly were. The Indians were deprived, till better times 
should come, of assistance and the diffusion of the 
knowledge of God, which they had been already receiv- 
ing with eagerness ; it was just as though we were to 
deprive plants of water a few days after planting them : 
and this was brought about by the inexpiable fault and 
consummate malice of those Spaniards. 


37° Bartholomew de Las Casas 

The Province of Santa Marta 

The province of Santa Marta was a country where 
the Indians had a great deal of gold because both it, 
and the places round about have rich mines which 
were diligently worked. And for this reason, from the 
year 1498 till the present 1542, numberless Spanish 
tyrants have continually gone there with ships to 
ravage and kill those people and to steal their gold. 
They afterwards returned in the ships with which they 
made numerous expeditions, murdering and massa- 
cring, with notorious cruelty; this commonly occurred 
along the seacoast and a few leagues inland, till the 
year 1523. 

2. In the year 1523 some Spanish tyrants went to 
take up their abode here. And because the country, 
as has been said, was rich, divers captains succeeded one 
another, each crueller than the other, so that it seemed 
as though each had made a vow to practise more exorbi- 
tant evils and cruelty than the other, in verification of 
the rule we have given above. 

3. In the year 1529 there arrived a great tyrant 
accompanied by many men, devoid of any fear of God 
or any mercy on mankind; so great were the massacres, 
slaughter and impiety he perpetrated, that he surpassed 
all his predecessors. During the space of six, or 
seven years that he lived, he and his men stole much 
treasure. * 

4. He died without sacraments after also avoiding 
the commission of investigation met on his account ; and 
afterwards, other murderous and thieving tyrants 
succeeded, who continued to destroy those people who 

1 Garcia de Lerma: Las Casas is wrong in stating that he 
governed for six or seven years, as he died in 1531. Infante 
acted as governor ad interim, after Lerma' s death. 

Santa Marta 371 

had survived the treatment and cruel swords of their 

5. They marched far inland, ruining and exterminat- 
ing large and numerous provinces; killing, and making 
slaves of their people in the ways above told of the others, 
putting lords and their vassals to grievous tortures to 
force them to disclose the gold and the town where it 
was to be had: as has been said they surpassed, both in 
number and quality, the operations of all their pre- 
decessors so that from the said year 1529, till to-day, 
they have devastated in those parts more than four 
hundred leagues of country, which was as densely 
peopled as the other. 

6. I truthfully declare that if I had to relate singly 
the evil, the massacres, the destruction, injustice, 
violence, slaughter, and the great sins the Spaniards have 
committed in this Kingdom of Santa Marta, against God, 
against the King, and against those innocent nations, 
I would compose a very long history; I shall relate all 
this however in due time, if God gives me life. 

7. Here I wish only to quote some few of the words 
that the lord bishop of that province now writes to the 
King: and the date of his letter is the 20th of May, 1541, 
in which among other words he says thus : 

8. " I assert, oh Sacred Caesar, that the way to rem- 
edy the ills of this country is for Your Majesty to now 
take it out of the hands of step-fathers and to give it a 
husband, who will treat it justly, and as it deserves ; and 
this as soon as possible because otherwise I am certain 
that the way these tyrants who now have the govern- 
ment, crush and harass it, will very soon destroy it," etc. 

9. And further on he says: " therefore Your Majesty 
will clearly discern that those who govern in these parts, 
deserve to be destroyed, to relieve the republics. And 
if this is not done, their infirmities are, in my opinion, 

37 2 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

without remedy. And Your Majesty will know in like 
manner that in these parts there are no Christians, but 
demons; neither are there servants of God nor of the 
King, but traitors to His law, and to the King. 

10. "Because in truth, the greatest obstacle I find 
to winning the Indians from war to peace, and from 
peace to the knowledge of our Holy Faith, is the harsh 
and cruel treatment that the peaceable ones receive from 
the Christians. 

ii. " They have on this account become so fierce and 
enraged, that nothing is more hated or abhorred by them, 
than the name of Christians, whom in all this country 
they call in their language Yares, which means demons; 
and without doubt they are right, because the deeds they 
do here are not those of Christians nor of reasonable 
men, but of devils. 

12. "From which it arises, that the Indians, seeing 
these perverse operations are general, and that both 
the commanders and the subordinates are so devoid of 
mercy, think that such is the law of the Christians, of 
which their God and their King are the authors. And to 
try to persuade them to the contrary is like trying to dry 
up the sea, and only makes them laugh and jeer at Jesus 
Christ and His law. 

13. "And the Indian warriors, seeing the treatment 
shown the peaceable people, count it better to die once, 
than many times in the power of the Spaniards ; I know 
this most invincible Caesar from experience " etc. 

14. And in a chapter further on he says: " Your Ma- 
jesty has more servants in these parts than is supposed; 
because there is not a soldier among those here who, 
while he is assassinating, or robbing, or destroying, or 
killing, or burning Your Majesty's vassals to force their 
gold from them, does not make bold to claim that he is 
serving Your Majesty. It would therefore be well, Most 

Cartagena 373 

Christian Cassar, that Your Majesty should make known 
by rigorously punishing some of them, that such services 
as are contrary to the service of God, are not accepted." 

15. All the above are formal words of the said Bishop 
of Santa Marta, and from them it will be clearly seen what 
is done to-day in these unfortunate countries, and to 
these innocent people. 

16. By " Indian warriors" he means those who live 
in the mountains and have been able to escape from 
massacres perpetrated by the unhappy Spaniards. And 
he terms "peaceable " those Indians whom the Spaniards, 
after having killed numberless people, condemn to the 
aforesaid tyrannical and horrible slavery, in which they 
then finish destroying and killing them, as appears from 
the quoted words of the bishop : and in truth very little 
indeed does he express, of what they suffer. 

17. When the Spaniards make them labour, carrying 
loads over the mountains, they kick and beat them, and 
knock out their teeth with the handles of their swords, to 
force them to get up when they fall, fainting from weak- 
ness, and to go on without taking breath; and the In- 
dians commonly exclaim; "go to, how wicked you are: 
I am worn out so kill me here, for I would rather die 
now and here. " And they say this with many sighs and 
gasps, showing great anguish and grief. 

18. Oh! who could express the hundredth part of the 
affliction and calamity that these innocent people suffer 
from the unhappy Spaniards ! May God make it known 
to those who can, and ought to remedy it. 

The Province of Cartagena 

This province of Cartagena lies westward and fifty 
leagues below that of Santa Marta, and bordering on 
that of Cenu as far as the Gulf of Uraba: it comprises 

374 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

about a hundred leagues of seacoast and a large territory- 
inland towards the south. 

2. These provinces have been as badly treated as 
those of Santa Marta, distressed, killed, depopulated, 
and devastated, from the year 1498 or 99 until to-day, 
and in them many notorious cruelties, murders, and 
robberies have been committed by the Spaniards; but 
in order to finish this brief compendium quickly and 
to recount the wickedness done by them elsewhere, 
I will not describe the details. 

The Pearl Coast 

Paria, and the Island of Trinidad 

Great and notorious have been the destruction that 
the Spaniards have worked along the Coast of Paria, J 
extending for two hundred leagues as far as the Gulf 
of Venezuela, assassinating the inhabitants and capturing 
as many as they could alive, to sell them as slaves. 

2. They frequently took them by violating their 
pledged word and friendship, the Spaniards failing to 
keep faith, while the Indians received them in their houses, 
like fathers receive their children, giving them all they 
possessed and serving them to the best of their ability. 

3. Certainly it would not be easy to relate, or describe 
minutely the variety and number of the injustices, 
wrongs, oppressions, and injury practised upon the peo- 
ple of this coast by the Spaniards from the year 15 10 
up to the present day. I will relate but two or three in- 
stances from which the villany and number of the others, 

1 We have in this chapter the description penned by Las 
Casas, of the events that wrecked his own colony on the Pearl 

The Pearl Coast 375 

worthy of punishment by every torment and fire may be 

4. In the island of Trinidad which joins the conti- 
nent at Paria, and is much larger and more prosperous 
than Sicily, there are as good and virtuous people as in all 
the Indies; an assassin going there in the year 1516, with 
sixty or seventy other habitual robbers, gave the Indians 
to understand that they had come to dwell and live 
in that island along with them. 

5. The Indians received them as though they were 
children of their own flesh and blood, the lords and their 
subjects serving them with the greatest affection and 
joy, bringing them every day double the amount of food 
required; for it is the usual disposition and liberality 
of all the Indians of this new world to give the Spaniards 
in excess of all they need and as much as they themselves 

6. In accordance with the Spaniards' wish, they built 
one great house of timber, where all might live: they 
needed no more than one in order to carry out what they 
had in mind and afterwards accomplished. 

7 . When they were putting the straw over the timbers 
and had covered about the height of two paces so that 
those inside no longer saw those without, the Spaniards, 
under pretence of hurrying on the completion of the 
house, induced many people to go inside ; meanwhile they 
divided, some surrounding the house outside, with their 
weapons ready for the Indians who should come out, 
and the others stationing themselves inside the house. 
The latter drew their swords and threatening the naked 
Indians with death if they moved, they began to bind 
them, while some who ran out seeking to escape were 
cut to pieces with swords. 

8. Some who got out, wounded, and others sound, 
joined with one or two hundred natives who had not 

37 6 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

entered the house, and arming themselves with bows 
and arrows they retired to another house of the commun- 
ity's to defend themselves; while they defended the 
door however, the Spaniards set fire to the house, and 
burnt them alive; they then took the prey they had 
captured, amounting to perhaps a hundred and eighty 
or two hundred men, and carried them bound to their 
ship. Hoisting sail they departed for the island of San 
Juan, where they sold one half as slaves, and afterwards 
to Hispaniola, where they sold the remainder. 

9. When I at the time reproved the captain in the 
same island of San Juan for such infamous treachery and 
malice, he replied "Go to, Sefior, thus was I commanded, 
and instructions were given me by those who sent me, 
that if I could not capture them in war, I should take 
them under pretext of peace/' 

10. And in truth he told me that in all his life he had 
found neither father nor mother, if not in the island of 
Trinidad; such were the good services the Indians had 
rendered him. This he said to his greater shame and 
the aggravation of his sins. 

11. Numberless times have they done these things 
on this continent, capturing people and making them 
slaves under promise of safe conduct. Let it be seen 
what sort of acts these are: and whether those Indians 
taken in such a way, are justly made slaves. 

12. Another time the friars of our Order of St. 
Dominic determined to go and preach to those people 
and convert them, for they were without the hope or the 
light of doctrine by which to save their souls, as they still 
are to-day in the Indies; they sent a monk, who was a 
theological scholar of great virtue and sanctity, accom- 
panied by a serving friar as his companion; his object 
was to see the country, become intimate with the people, 
and seek convenient sites to build monasteries. 

The Pearl Coast 377 

13. When the monks arrived, the Indians received 
them as angels from heaven, and listened with great 
affection, attention, and joy to those words which they 
could make them understand more by signs than speech, 
as they did not know the language. 

14. It happened that after the departure of the vessel 
that had brought the monks, another ship arrived 
there; the Spaniards on board of it practising their 
infernal custom, deceitfully enticed the lord of that land, 
named Don Alonso, on board without the monks per- 
ceiving it ; either the friars or some other Spaniards, had 
given him this name, for the Indians like and desire 
Christian names and at once ask to have them, even 
before they know enough to be baptised. So they 
deceived the said Don Alonso, to make him come aboard 
their ship, with his wife and certain other persons, by 
telling him they would prepare a feast there for him. 

15. At last seventeen persons went on board with 
the lord and his wife, confident that as the monks were 
in the country, out of respect for them, the Spaniards 
would not do anything wicked; because otherwise they 
would not have trusted them. Once the Indians were 
on the ship, the traitors set sail and were off to Hispaniola, 
where they sold them for slaves. 

16. On seeing their lord and his wife carried off, all 
the Indians came to the friars intending to kill them. 
The friars were like to die for sorrow on beholding such 
great villany, and it may be believed they would have 
rather given their lives than that such injustice should 
have been done; especially as it impeded those souls 
from ever hearing or believing the word of God. 

17. They called the Indians as best they could and 
told them that by the first ship that passed there, they 
would write to Hispaniola and bring about the restoration 
of their lord and of the others who were with him. For 

37 8 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the greater confirmation of the damnation of those who 
were governing, God caused a ship to come at once to 
hand. The monks wrote to their brethren in Hispaniola, 
lamenting and protesting repeatedly. The auditors 
never would do justice, because they themselves had 
divided a share of the Indians so barbarously and unjustly 
carried off by the tyrants. 

1 8. The two monks who had promised the Indians 
that their lord, Don Alonso, together with the others, 
should return in four months' time, seeing that they did 
not come, neither in four, nor in eight months prepared 
for death, and to give their lives to those to whom they 
had consecrated them before they left. And so the 
Indians took vengeance upon them, killing them justly, 
although they were innocent: because it was believed 
that the monks had been the cause of that treachery, 
and because they saw that what had been faithfully 
promised them within four months was not fulfilled ; and 
also because up to that time and up to the present day 
they neither knew, nor know, that there is a difference 
between the friars and the Spanish tyrants, bandits, and 
assassins of all that country. 

19. The blessed friars suffered unjustly, and by that 
injustice there is no doubt that, according to our holy 
faith, they are true martyrs, and reign blissfully to-day 
with God in the heavens ; for they were sent to that land 
under obedience, and their intention was to preach and 
spread the holy faith, to save all those souls and to suffer 
every kind of affliction and death that might be offered 
them for Jesus Christ crucified. 

20. Another time, through the great tyranny and 
execrable works of the wicked Spaniards, the Indians 
killed two monks of St. Dominic and one of St. Francis, 
of which I myself am a witness, for I escaped the same 
death by divine miracle; so serious and horrible was 

The Pearl Coast 379 

the case I might have much to say that would amaze 
mankind, but on account of the length of the narration I 
will not relate it here nor until the time comes. The 
last day will disclose all more clearly, for God will then 
avenge such horrible and abominable outrages as are done 
in the Indies by those who bear the name of Christians. 

21. Another time there was a town in the provinces 
called Capo della Codera, the lord of which was called 
Nigoroto ; this is either a personal name or else one com- 
mon to all the lords of that country. 

22. He was so kind and his people so virtuous, that 
when the Spanish ships passed there the Spaniards found 
comforts, provisions, rest, and every consolation and re- 
freshment, and many did he deliver from death, who, 
wasted with hunger, took refuge there from other prov- 
inces where they had assassinated, and practised evil and 
tyranny. He gave them food and sent them safe to the 
Pearl Island [Cubagua], where some Christians dwelt, 
whom he could have slain, without any one knowing it, 
and did not: all the Christians finally called Nigoroto's 
town the mansion and home of everybody. 

23. An ill-starred tyrant deliberated within himself 
to attack this place, as the people felt so safe : so he went 
there with a ship and invited many people to come on 
board, as they were used to, trusting the Spaniards. 
When many men, women, and children were gathered 
in the ship, he set sail and came to the island of San 
Juan, where he sold them all as slaves. And I arrived 
just then at the said island and saw that tyrant and 
heard what he had done. 

24. He left all that country ruined; and all those 
Spanish tyrants, who robbed and assassinated along those 
coasts took it ill, and detested so dreadful a deed because 
they lost the asylum and dwelling place they had had 
there as though in their own houses. 

380 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

25. To abbreviate, I omit the narration of the 
tremendous wickedness and fearful deeds that have 
been committed, and are committed to-day in these 

26. They have taken more than two million ruined 
souls from that populous seacoast to the island of His- 
paniola, and to that of San Juan, where they have like- 
wise caused their death in the mines and other works, of 
which there were many, as has been said above. And it 
excites great compassion and sorrow to see all that 
most delightful coast deserted and depopulated. 

27. It is certainly true, that never does a ship sail 
loaded with kidnapped and ruined Indians (as I have 
told) without the third part of those that embarked, 
being thrown dead into the sea, besides those that they 
kill in effecting their capture. 

28. The reason of this is, that as they need many 
men to accomplish their aim of making more money 
from a greater number of slaves, they carry but little 
food and water, so as to save expense to the tyrants, 
who call themselves privateers; they have enough for 
only a few more people than the Spaniards who man the 
ships to make the raids ; as these miserable Indians are in 
want and die of hunger and thirst, the remedy is to throw 
them in the sea. 

29. And in truth, one of them told me, that from the 
Lucayan Islands, where very great havoc of this sort 
was made, to the Island of Hispaniola, which is more 
than sixty or seventy leagues, a ship is supposed to have 
gone without compass or nautical chart, finding its course 
by the trail of dead Indians who had been thrown out of 
ships and left in the sea. 

30. When they are afterwards disembarked at the 
island where they are taken to be sold, it is enough to 
break the heart of whomsoever has some spark of 

The Pearl Coast 381 

compassion to see naked, starving children, old people, 
men, and women falling, faint from hunger. 

31. They then divide them like so many lambs, the 
fathers separated from the children, and the wives from 
the husbands, making droves of ten or twenty persons 
and casting lots for them, so that each of the unhappy 
privateers who contributed to fit out a fleet of two or 
three vessels, and the tyrant villains who go to capture 
and prey upon the natives in their homes, receives his 

32. And when the lot falls on a drove in which there 
is some old or ill person, the tyrant who gets it, says: 
"Why in the devil do you give this old man to me? 
That I shall bury him ? Why should I take this ill one ? 
To nurse him?" It may be seen how the Spaniards 
despise the Indians and whether they carry out the 
precept of divine love to one's neighbour, upon which 
rest the law and the prophets. 

33. The tyranny exercised by the Spaniards upon 
the Indians in fishing pearls, is as cruel, and reprehensible 
a thing as there can be in the world. Upon the land there 
is no life so infernal and hopeless as to be compared to it, 
although that of digging gold in the mines is the hardest 
and worst. 

34. They let them down into the sea three and four 
and five fathoms deep, from the morning till sunset. 
They are always swimming under water without respite, 
gathering the oysters, in which the pearls grow. 

35. They come up to breathe bringing little nets full 
of them ; there is a hangman Spaniard in a boat and if 
they linger resting, he beats them with his fists, and, 
taking them by the hair, throws them in the water to 
go on fishing. 

36. Their food is fish and the fish that contain the 
pearls, and a little cazabi or maize bread, which are 

382 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the kinds of native bread: the one gives very little sus- 
tenance and the other is very difficult to make, so with 
such food they are never sufficiently nourished. In- 
stead of giving them beds at night, they put them in 
stocks on the ground, to prevent them from escaping. 

37. Many times the Indians throw themselves into 
the sea while fishing or hunting pearls and never 
come up again, because dolphins and sharks, which are 
two kinds of very cruel sea animals that swallow a man 
whole, kill and eat them. 

38. From this it may be seen, whether the Spaniards 
who thus seek profit from the pearls, observe the divine 
precepts of love to God and one's neighbour; out of 
avarice, they put their fellow creatures in danger of 
death to the body and also to the soul; because they 
die without faith and without sacraments. 

39. They lead the Indians such a wretched life that 
they ruin and waste them in a few days ; for it is impos- 
sible for men to live much under water without respira- 
tion, especially because the cold of the water penetrates 
their bodies and so they generally all die from haemor- 
rhages, oppression of the chest caused by staying such 
long stretches of time without breathing; and from 
dysentery caused by the frigidity. 

40. Their hair, which is by nature black, changes to 
an ashen colour like the skin of seals, and nitre comes 
out from their shoulders so that they resemble human 
monsters of some species. 

41. With this insupportable toil, or rather, infernal 
trade, the Spaniards completed the destruction of all the 
Indians of the Lucayan Islands who were there when they 
set themselves to making these gains ; each one was worth 
fifty and a hundred crowns, and they were sold publicly, 
although it had been prohibited by the magistrates 
themselves; it was even more unjust elsewhere for the 

Venezuela 3&3 

Lucayans were great swimmers. They have caused the 
death of numberless others here, from other provinces, 
and other regions. 

The Yuyapari River 

On a river called the Yuyapari, which flows for more 
than two hundred leagues through the province of Paria, 
a wretched tyrant 1 sailed a great distance in the year 
1529, accompanied by four hundred or more men; and 
he did very great slaughter, burning alive and putting to 
the sword numberless innocent and inoffensive people 
who were in their towns or houses, unsuspicious of danger; 
and he left immense tracts of country burnt, terrorized, 
and the inhabitants scattered. He finally died a bad 
death and his fleet was dispersed. Other tyrants suc- 
ceeded him and continued this wickedness and tyranny : 
and to-day they go through those regions destroying, 
killing, and sending to hell those souls that were re- 
deemed by the son of God with His own blood. 

The Kingdom of Venezuela 

The Spaniards have always exercised diligent care 
to hide the truth from our lord the King about injuries 
and losses to God, to human souls, and to his State ; and 
in the year 1526, he was deceived and perniciously per- 
suaded into giving and conceding to some German mer- 
chants, the great kingdom of Venezuela which is much 
larger than all Spain; the entire management of the 
government and all jurisdiction were conceded under a 
certain agreement and compact, or condition that was 
made with them. 2 

1 Refers again to Garcia de Lerma. 

2 In 1528-29, the King of Spain gave this important concession 
to Heinrich Alfinger and Jerome Sailler: two others, Ambrose 
Alfinger and George Eviguier were empowered to act as their 

384 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

2. These men invaded these countries with a force 
of three hundred or more and found the people the same 
gentle lambs, (and much more so), as they usually find 
them everywhere in the Indies before the Spaniards 
injure them. 

3. More cruel beyond comparison than any of the 
other tyrants we have told of, was their invasion; and 
more irrational and furious were they than the cruellest 
tigers, or raging wolves and lions. Their liberty of 
action was the greater because they held all the juris- 
diction of the country ; with greater eagerness and blind 
greediness of avarice, and with ways and arts for stealing 
and accumulating gold and silver more exquisite than 
their predecessors, they abandoned all fear of God and the 
King and all shame of men, forgetting that they were 
mortal beings. 

4. These devils incarnate have devastated, destroyed, 
and depopulated more than four hundred leagues of 
most delightful country containing large and marvellous 
provinces, valleys extending for forty leagues, pleasant 
regions, very large towns, most rich in gold. 

5. They have killed and entirely cut to pieces divers 
large nations and destroyed many languages, so that 
not a person who speaks them remains, except a few, 
who have hidden in caverns and in the bowels of the 
earth to escape from the pestilential sword of the 

6. They have killed, destroyed, and sent to hell, 
(according to my belief) , more than four or five millions 
of those innocent races by means of various strange and 
new kinds of cruel iniquity and impiety ; nor do they, 
at the present day, cease sending them there. 

7. I will relate no more than three or four instances 
of the endless injustice, outrages, and slaughter they 
have done, and are doing to-day; it may be imagined 

Venezuela 385 

from these what they must have done to accomplish 
the great destruction and depopulation we have de- 

8. They took the supreme lord of all the province, put- 
ting him to torture, for no other reason than to obtain 
his gold. He escaped and fled to the mountains, where 
he remained in hiding amongst the rocks, with his en- 
raged and terrified people. The Spaniards attacked 
them in their search for him; they recaptured him 
and, after cruel slaughter, they sold at auction all whom 
they took alive. 

9. Before they captured that ruler, they had been 
received in many, nay in all the provinces, wherever 
they went, with singing and dances and many gifts of 
large quantities of gold; the payment they made the 
Indians was to put them to the sword and cut them 
to pieces in order to terrorise the whole country. 

10. Once, when the inhabitants had come out to 
meet him in the aforesaid way, the tyrant German 
captain put a great number of people into a large straw 
house and cut them to pieces. As the house had some 
beams at the top and many climbed up to escape from 
the bloody hands and swords of those men or pitiless 
beasts, this infernal man caused fire to be set to the 
house; thus all who remained were burnt alive. This 
action caused the depopulation of a great number of 
towns as all the people fled to the mountains where 
they hoped to be safe. 

11. They came to another large province on the 
borders of the province and kingdom of Santa Marta, 
where they found the Indians in their towns and houses, 
peaceably occupied with their affairs. They stayed with 
them a long time, eating their substance while the Indians 
served them as though it were their duty to give them 
life and succour; they bore with their continual oppres- 


386 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

sions and usual exactions, which are intolerable, for 
one parasite Spaniard eats as much in one day as would 
be sufficient for an Indian household of ten persons for 
a month. 

12. During this time, the Indians spontaneously 
gave them great quantities of gold, besides the best of 
treatment. At last when the tyrants wished to depart, 
they determined to repay their hospitality in this follow- 
ing manner. 

13. The German governor, who was a tyrant and, 
for what we know also a heretic — for he never attends 
mass neither does he let many others go, besides which, 
other signs mark him as a Lutheran, — ordered his men 
to capture all the Indians they could, with their wives 
and children, and to confine them in a large yard or 
wooden enclosure prepared for the purpose; he then 
announced that whoever wished to go out and be free, 
must ransom himself according to the will of the iniqui- 
tous governor, giving so much gold for himself, so much 
for his wife and for each of his children ; and to force them 
the more, he commanded that nothing whatever should 
be given them to eat, until they brought him the gold 
he demanded as ransom. 

14. Many who were able, sent to their houses for 
gold and redeemed themselves. They were set free, 
and returned to their occupations and to their houses 
to provide themselves with the necessaries of life. The 
tyrant sent certain villainous Spanish thieves to re- 
capture these miserable Indians, who had once ransomed 
themselves; they brought them back to the enclosure 
and tortured them with hunger and thirst to make them 
ransom themselves again. 

15. Many who were captured were ransomed two 
and three times. Others who could not, because they 
had given all the gold they possessed and had not enough 

Venezuela 387 

left, he left languishing in the enclosure till they died of 

16. By this deed, he left ruined, desolate, and depopu- 
lated, a most populous province most rich in gold, which 
has a valley of forty leagues, where he burnt a town 
that had a thousand houses. 

17. This infernal tyrant determined to go inland, as 
he eagerly desired to discover the hell of Peru in those 
parts. To make this unhappy journey, he, and the 
others brought numberless Indians, chained to one 
another, carrying loads of sixty, and seventy pounds 

18. If one tired, or fainted from hunger, fatigue, 
and weakness, they at once cut off his head at the collar 
of the chain so as not to stop to loosen the others in the 
line ; and the head fell to one side and the body to the 
other, and they distributed his load among the other 

19. To tell of the provinces he destroyed, the towns, 
and places he burnt (for all the houses are built of straw) 
— the people he killed, the cruelty he displayed in the 
several massacres during this journey, would make an 
incredible and terrifying story, but it would be true, 

20. These journeys were afterwards undertaken by 
other tyrants who followed in the same Venezuela, and 
others from the province of Santa Marta, animated by 
the same holy intention of discovering this holy house 
of gold in Peru; and they found all the country for 
more than two hundred leagues, so much burnt, depop- 
ulated, and deserted, from formerly being most popu- 
lous and prosperous, as has been said, that though they 
themselves were cruel tyrants, they marvelled and 
were horrified to behold the traces of such lamentable 

388 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

21. Many witnesses have proved these things before 
the chancellor of the exchequer of the India Council, 
and the proofs are in the possession of the same Council ; 
but they have never burnt alive any of these nefarious 

22. But what has been proven is as nothing com- 
pared to the massacres and great wickedness that have 
been committed, because all the officers of justice in the 
Indies are so mortally blind that they do not investigate 
the crimes, destruction, and slaughter that have been, 
and are to-day wrought by all the tyrants of the Indies, 
beyond declaring that as such and such a one has used 
cruelty towards the Indians, the King's revenue has 
lost so many thousand crowns; they are satisfied with 
little proof, and that of a very general and confused 

23. And even this they do not verify, nor make it as 
clear as they should ; for if they did their duty to God 
and the king, they would discover that the said German 
tyrants have robbed the king of more than three million 
crowns' worth of gold, because that province of Venezu- 
ela, with the others they have ruined, devastated, and 
depopulated for an extent of more than four hundred 
leagues, (as I have said) was the most prosperous, the 
richest in gold, and the most populous of the universe. 

24. During the sixteen years those tyrants, enemies 
of God, devastated it, they have wasted and caused the 
loss of more than two millions of revenue that the king 
of Spain would have drawn from that kingdom. Nor is 
there hope of repairing this damage between now and 
the end of the world, unless God, through a miracle, 
should resuscitate so many million persons. 

25. These are the temporal injuries to the king. 
It would be well to consider what, and how many are the 
injuries, the dishonour, blasphemies, and insults to God 

Florida 389 

and His law, and with what will be requited so many 
numberless souls, burning in hell, because of the avarice 
and cruelty of these tyrant animals or Germans. * 

26. To sum up this wickedness and ferocity, I will 
only say that from the day the Germans entered the coun- 
try till the present time, that is in these sixteen years, the 
Indians they have transported in their ships amount 
to more than a million who were sold as slaves in Santa 
Marta, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and the island of San Juan. 

27. And even now, in the year 1542, the traffic con- 
tinues, for the royal Audiencia of Hispaniola dissembled 
— nay favoured this and all the other numberless acts 
of tyranny and destruction done along all that coast 
of the continent, which is more than four hundred 
leagues from Venezuela to Santa Marta, and is under 
their jurisdiction, though they could have prevented 
and corrected them. 

28. There has been no other reason to make slaves 
of all these Indians except the perverse, blind, obstinate 
will of these most avaricious tyrants, and to satisfy their 
insatiable avarice for money; just as all the others have 
always done everywhere in the Indies, taking those lambs 
and sheep away from their houses, their wives, and their 
children in the said cruel and wicked ways, marking them 
with the king's brand to sell them as slaves. 

The Provinces of that Part of the Continent which is 

Called Florida 

These provinces 2 have been visited at divers times 

1 In the Spanish text " animales o alemanes." 

2 Discovered in 15 12, by Juan Ponce de Leon: he founded 
no stable colony and died in 1528. Panfilo de Narvaez went 
to Florida in 1528 and Hernando de Soto was named governor 
in 1539: he is meant by the "fourth tyrant" whom Las Casas 
mentions in this chapter. 

39° Bartholomew de Las Casas 

since the year 1510 or 1511 by three tyrants who imi- 
tated the deeds done by the others, and also by two 
of them in other parts of the Indies seeking to advance 
to a degree disproportioned to their merit, at the cost of 
the blood and destruction of their fellow creatures. 

2. And all three died a bad death, and their families 
and properties established in human blood, perished, for 
I am witness of all three, whose very memory is already 
as extinct in the world as though they had never lived. 

3. The infamy and horror of their names scandalised 
all the land because of some massacres they perpetrated: 
these were not many, however, for God killed them 
before they did more, for He had reserved till that hour 
the punishment for the wickedness that I know and 
saw they committed in other parts of the Indies. 

4. The fourth tyrant went there recently, in the year 
1538, with his plans made and with great preparations. 
Since three years nothing has been seen or heard of 

5. We are sure, that as soon as he landed he com- 
mitted cruel deeds and at once disappeared: and that, 
if he be alive, he and his men have destroyed numbers 
of people in these three years, if he encountered any on 
his march, for he is one of the notorious, and experienced 
ones who, together with his other companions, has 
done the most harm and wickedness, and has destroyed 
many provinces, and kingdoms. But we rather believe 
that God has given him the same end as the others. 

6. Three or four years after the above things were 
written, three of the other tyrants returned from the 
land called Florida; they had accompanied the chief 
tyrant whom they left dead, and we learned from them 
what cruelty and unheard of wickedness, these inhu- 
man men committed there against those innocent and 
harmless Indians, principally during the life of their 

Florida 39 1 

commander and also after his unhappy death : therefore 
what I foretold above has not turned out wrong. 

7. And so many things confirm the rule I laid down 
at the beginning: that the more they continue to dis- 
cover, ruin, and destroy both peoples and countries, 
the more notorious are the cruelties and iniquities 
they commit against God and their fellow creatures. 

8. It is already wearisome to us to relate so many, 
and such execrable, horrible, blood-thirsty operations, 
not by men, but by ferocious beasts, hence I will not 
stop to relate any but the following. 

9. They found large towns full of people who were 
friendly, intelligent, politic, and orderly. They did great 
slaughter among them, according to their custom, in 
order to impregnate the hearts of those people with fear 
of them. 

10. They tormented and killed them, loading them 
like animals. When one became tired, or fainted, they 
cut off his head at the neck, in order not to free those 
in front from the chain that bound them, and the body 
fell to one side and the head to the other, as we have 
told elsewhere above. 

11. In one town where they went they were received 
with joy, and over-abundant food was given them, while 
more than six hundred Indians carried their loads, like 
beasts of burden, and cared for their horses; when the 
tyrants had left there, a captain who was a relative of 
the chief tyrant, turned back to rob the entire town 
whose people felt themselves safe; and with a lance, he 
killed the lord and king of the town, and did other cruel 

12. Because the inhabitants of another large town 
seemed to them to be a little more on their guard, on 
account of the infamous and horrible deeds of which 
they had heard, they put to the sword large and small 

39 2 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

children and old people, subjects and lords, without 
sparing any one. 

13. It is said that the chief tyrant had the faces of 
many Indians cut, so that they were shorn of nostrils 
and lips, down to the beard; and in particular of a group 
of two hundred whom he either summoned or who came 
voluntarily from a certain town. Thus he despatched 
these mutilated, suffering creatures dripping with blood, 
to carry the news of the deeds and miracles done by 
those baptised Christians, preachers of the Holy Catholic 

14. It may be judged in what state those people must 
be, how they must love the Christians, and how they will 
believe that their God is good and just, and that the 
law and religion they profess and praise, is immaculate. 

15. Most great and outlandish are the evils done 
here by those unhappy men, sons of perdition. And thus 
the wickedest of captains died miserably and without 
confession; and we doubt not that he is buried in hell, 
unless by chance, God out of His divine mercy has mys- 
teriously succoured him despite his guiltiness for such 
execrable wickedness. 

Rio delta Plata 

Three or four times since the year 1522 some captains 
have visited Rio della Plata, 1 where there are large 
kingdoms and provinces, and very friendly and intelli- 
gent people. 

2. We know, in general, that they have committed 
many homicides and much injury. In particular, as it is 
so distant from the Indies, we have nothing signal to 

3. We have no doubt at all, however, but that they 

1 Discovered in 1515 by Juan Diaz de Solis. 

Rio della Plata 393 

have and do carry on the same practices as in other 
places; because they are the same Spaniards, and some 
among them have visited other regions, and because 
they go to get wealth and power just like the others; 
it is impossible for this to come about, except by de- 
struction, massacres, robbery, and the extermination of 
the Indians by the adoption of the perverse rule and 
system they have all alike followed. 

4. After writing the above, we have learned, with 
ample proof, that they have destroyed and depopulated 
great provinces and kingdoms of that country, murder- 
ing, and cruelly treating those unfortunate people ; they 
have thereby made themselves even more notorious 
than the others, because, being at a greater distance 
from Spain, they could do more as they pleased and con- 
sequently lived in greater disorder and with less justice. 
As for justice, however, there has never been any in 
all the Indies, as is seen from what has been related 

5. Among infinite other cases, the three following 
have been read before the Council of the Indies. A 
tyrant governor commanded certain of his people, to 
go to some Indian town and, if food was not given 
them, to kill all the inhabitants. Thus authorised, 
they started and, because the Indians considered them 
their enemies and more out of fear and the desire to 
escape from them, than from a want of generosity, 
refused to supply them, the Spaniards put more than 
five thousand persons to the sword. 

6. Another time a certain number of people presented 
themselves peaceably for their service, or perhaps they 
had been summoned by the Spaniards ; and because they 
did not come quickly enough, or because, as is their 
habit and common usage, they wished to inspire them 
with fear and horrible fright, the Governor commanded 

394 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

that they should all be consigned into the hands of their 
Indian enemies. 

7. They wept and cried, praying that the Spaniards 
would kill them, rather than deliver them io their ene- 
mies. * And as they would not leave the house where 
they were, they were cut to pieces there, weeping, and cry- 
ing out : ' ' We came peaceably to serve you and you kill 
us? May our blood, remain on these walls as testimony 
of our unjust death and of your cruelty ! " This was, 
in truth, a notorious action, and worthy of consideration, 
but much more of being lamented. 

The Vast Kingdoms and Great Provinces of Peru 

In the year 1531 another great tyrant went with cer- 
tain people to the kingdoms of Peru, 2 which he invaded 
by virtue of the same title, intentions, and principles 
as all the former ones, because he was one of the most 
experienced, and since a long time had taken part in all 
the cruelties and massacres that had been committed 
on the continent since the year 15 10; he was devoid of 
faith and honour, and he did more cruelty and slaughter, 
destroying towns, killing and exterminating the people 
of them and causing such great mischief in these coun- 
tries that, I am certain, it would be impossible for 
any one to recount and describe them till we shall see 
and know them clearly in the day of judgment. I could 
not, nor should I know how to describe the deformity, 

1 This statement confirms what Cortes and others of the 
conquerors averred, viz. that the Indians were more cruel to one 
another than the Spaniards were to them and that the most 
dreaded punishment with which they could be threatened was 
that of being sold to an Indian master. 

3 Discovered in 15 13, by Vasco Nunez de Balboa. Conquered 
by Francisco Pizarro and Diego Almagro, and the four brothers 
of Pizarro. 

Peru 395 

the character, and the circumstances of some incidents 
that I would relate, and which greatly aggravate their 

2. From his unhappy landing, he killed and destroyed 
some peoples and robbed them of a large quantity of 
gold. In an island near the same province called Pugna 
which is very populous and pleasing, they were received 
by the lord and people like angels from heaven and, 
after having eaten all their provisions in six months, 
the Indians again uncovered the store of corn they had 
laid up for themselves and their families in time of 
drought and barrenness, tearfully offering it for their con- 
sumption. The payment that was finally awarded the na- 
tives, was to put them to the sword, for they killed great 
numbers with lances, and those whom they captured 
alive, they made slaves; in consequence of this and the 
other great notorious cruelties done there, they left this 
island almost deserted. 

3. From there the Spaniards went to the province of 
Tumbala, which is on the continent, where they killed 
and destroyed everything they could. And because all 
the people fled from their fearful and horrible operations, 
they declared they had revolted and were in rebellion 
against the king. 

4. This tyrant employed the following artifice. 
He demanded still more from all who either offered or 
whom he asked to present him with gold, silver, and 
their other possessions, until he saw that they either 
had no more, or brought no more: he then declared 
that he received them as vassals of the king of Spain 
and embraced them; he caused two trumpets to be 
sounded, giving them to understand that for the future 
he would take nothing more from them, nor do them 
any harm; he esteemed it permissible to rob them 
or to take all they gave, out of fear inspired by the 

39 6 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

abominable reports they heard of him, before he received 
them under the shelter and protection of the king, as 
though after they were received under the royal pro- 
tection he would no more oppress, rob, desolate, and 
destroy them. 

5. A few days later came the universal king and 
emperor of those kingdoms, who was called Atabaliba, 
with many naked people armed with ridiculous weapons 
and ignorant of how swords cut, and lances wound, and 
horses run; nor did they know the Spaniards, who 
would assault the very devils if they had gold, to rob 
them of it. He arrived at the place where they were, 
and said : ' ' Where are these Spaniards ? let them come 
forward, for I shall not stir from here till satisfaction is 
rendered me for my vassals whom they have killed, for 
the town they have desolated, and for the riches they 
have stolen from me." 

6. The Spaniards attacked him — killing infinite num- 
bers of his people ; they took him prisoner from the litter 
in which he was carried and after they had captured 
him, they negotiated with him for his ransom: he pro- 
mised to give four million crowns, and paid them fifteen, 
after which they promised to set him free. 

7. They ended by keeping no faith nor truth, for 
they have never been kept by the Spaniards in their 
dealings with the Indians : they calumniated him, saying 
that by his orders the people were assembling, and he 
replied that not a leaf moved in all the country save 
by his will and that if the people were assembling, they 
might believe that he was the cause of it : as he was their 
prisoner, they might therefore kill him. 

8. In spite of all this they condemned him to be 
burned alive, although later, some of them begged the 
captain, to have him strangled and to burn him after- 
wards. When he learned this he said : "Why do you wish 

Peru 397 

to burn me ? What have I done to you ? Have you not 
promised to free me, after my ransom was paid? Have 
I not given you more than what I promised you ? Send 
me, as thus you wish it, to your King of Spain." He 
said many other things showing condemnation and de- 
testation of the great injustice of the Spaniards: and 
at last they burnt him. 

9. Let the justice of these deeds be considered: the 
reason of this war: the imprisonment, death sentence, 
and execution of this monarch ; and how conscientiously 
these tyrants hold the great treasures they steal in 
those kingdoms from such a great king and from num- 
berless other lords and private people. 

10. Of the countless notoriously wicked and cruel 
acts committed in the extirpation of these people by 
those who call themselves Christians, I will relate 
some few that a friar of St. Francis witnessed in the 
beginning; and he signed depositions with his name, 
sending some of the copies to those regions and others to 
the kingdoms of Castile : and I have one of the copies in 
my possession with his own signature, in which he makes 
the following statements. 

11. "I, Fray Marcus de Nizza of the Order of St. 
Francis, commissary of the friars of the same Order 
in the provinces of Peru, who were among the first monks 
who entered the said provinces with the first Christians, 
speak to render truthful testimony of some of the things 
that I saw with my own eyes in that country; chiefly 
concerning the treatment of the Indians and the acquisi- 
tion of property taken from the natives. 

12. "First of all I am eye-witness, and from actual 
experience know, that these Indians of Peru are the most 
affable people that have been seen among the Indians, 
and were very well inclined and friendly towards the 

39 8 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

13. "And I saw that they gave gold abundantly 
to the Spaniards, and silver and precious stones and 
all that was asked of them, and that they rendered them 
every good service ; and the Indians never went forth in 
war fashion, but always peaceably, as long as no cruelty 
and ill-treatment provoked them; on the contrary, they 
received the Spaniards with all benevolence and honour 
in their towns, giving them provisions and as many male 
and female slaves for their service, as they asked. 

14. " I am also witness, and I testify, that without 
the Indians giving them any cause or occasion, the Span- 
iards, as soon as they entered their country, and after 
the chief lord Atabaliba had paid them more than two 
millions of gold and had left all the country in their 
power, without resistance, immediately burnt the said 
Atabaliba, who was ruler of all the country: and after 
him, they burnt alive his captain-general Cochilimaca 
who had come peaceably to the governor, accompanied by 
other high personages. 

15. "Within a few days after these executions they 
likewise burned Chamba another very high lord of the 
province of Quito, without him giving them any cause. 

16. "Thus too they burnt unjustly Chapera lord of 
the Canarios. 

17. " Likewise they burnt the feet of Luis who was one 
of the great lords in Quito, and tortured him in many 
other ways, to force him to reveal the hiding place of 
Atabaliba' s gold, of which treasure it was known that 
he knew nothing whatever. 

18. " They likewise burnt in Quito, Cozzopanga, who 
was governor of all the provinces of Quito and who had 
responded to the intimations of Sebastian de Benalcazza, 
the governor's captain, by coming peaceably; but because 
he did not give them as much gold as they asked, they 
burnt him, with many other lords and principal persons. 

The Pearl Coast 399 

As far as I could understand, it was the intention of the 
Spaniards that no lord should survive in all the country. 

19. "The Spaniards assembled a large number of 
Indians, and shut up as many as could enter, in three 
large houses which they then set on fire and burnt them 
all, although they had never done the slightest thing 
against any Spaniard, nor given the least cause. 

20. " It once happened, that when a priest called 
Ocana, pulled a child out of the fire in which it was burn- 
ing, another Spaniard snatched it out of his hands and 
threw it back in the middle of the flames, where it 
became ashes together with the others ; while the afore- 
said Spaniard, who had thus thrown the Indian into 
the fire was returning to his dwelling the same day, 
he suddenly fell dead in the road ; and it was my opinion, 
that they should not give him [Christian] burial. 

21. "Moreover I affirm, that I myself saw the Span- 
iards cut off the hands, noses, and ears of the Indian men 
and women, for no purpose whatever but just because the 
fancy struck them; and in so many places and regions 
did this occur that it would be a long story to tell. 

22. "I also saw the Spaniards setting dogs onto the 
Indians, to tear them to pieces; and thus I saw many 
of them torn to pieces. 

23. "I likewise saw so many houses and towns burned 
that I could not tell the number, so great was their 

24. " It is likewise true that they took nursing children 
by the arms and hurled them in the air as high as they 
could; and their other injustice and aimless cruelties 
terrified me, besides innumerable other things that I saw, 
and which it would take long to tell. 

25. "I saw moreover that they called the Indian 
lords and chiefs, to come peaceably, promising them 
safety, but as soon as they arrived they burnt them. 

4oo Bartholomew de Las Casas 

And in my presence they burnt two, one from Andon 
and the other in Tumbala, nor was I able for all I 
preached to them, to prevent them burning them. 

26. "I call God and my own conscience to witness 
that, as far as I can understand, the Indians only revolted 
on account of this ill treatment which sufficiently justified 
their action as may be clearly seen by everybody. 

27. " The Spaniards have never dealt honestly with 
them nor kept their word but, contrary to all reason and 
justice, they have tyrannically ruined them and all their 
country, doing such things against them, that they [the 
Indians] have resolved sooner to die, than suffer such 

28. "I say moreover, that the Indians are right in 
affirming that there is more gold hidden, than has been 
discovered, for they have refused to disclose it because 
of the injustice and cruelty shown them by the Spaniards ; 
nor will they disclose it as long as such treatment con- 
tinues, but rather will they die like the others. 

29. "God our Lord has been much offended by these 
deeds, and His Majesty very badly served and de- 
frauded, for they have made him lose countries that 
could very well provide food for the whole of Castile, 
and in my opinion, it will be very difficult and expensive 
to recover them." 

30. All these are the formal words of the said monk; 
and bear the signature also of the Bishop of Mexico, 
testifying that everything was affirmed by the said 
Father, Fray Marcus. 

31. What this Father says he has seen, should be 
considered here : because this happened throughout fifty 
or a hundred leagues of country and during nine or ten 
years, at the beginning, when there were very few Span- 
iards : afterwards the sound of gold drew thither four or 
five thousand Spaniards, who spread through many large 

New Granada 401 

kingdoms and provinces, covering more than five hund- 
red or seven hundred leagues, all of which they have 
destroyed by practising the same deeds and others still 
more ferocious and cruel. 

32. Truly, from that time to the present day, a 
thousand times more people have been destroyed and 
dispersed than he was told of ; being devoid of mercy and 
the fear of God and the King, the Spaniards have de- 
stroyed a very large part of the human race. 

33. Within the space of ten years they have killed, 
up to the present day, more than four millions of per- 
sons; and they are still killing. 

34. A short time since they pursued and killed a 
great queen, wife of Elingue, he who was left king of 
those kingdoms which the Christians had tyrannically 
seized and provoked to rise in the present rebellion. 
They captured the queen, his wife who, it is said, was 
pregnant and, contrary to all justice, they killed her, 
only to grieve her husband. 

35. If the cruelties and different murders committed 
by the Christians, and their daily deeds in those king- 
doms of Peru were to be told, they would doubtless be 
so horrible and so numerous that what we have re- 
counted of the other countries would fade, and seem 
little, compared with their number and their gravity. 

Of the New Kingdom of Granada 

In the year 1539 many tyrants joined together and 
started from Venezuela, Santa Marta, and Cartagena 
for Peru: and others came back from the same Peru to 
explore those countries. Three hundred leagues inland 
behind Santa Marta and Cartagena, they found some 
very delightful and marvellous provinces, full of num- 
berless people, as mild and kind as the others, and very 

402 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

rich in gold, and in those precious stones called emeralds. 

2. To these provinces they gave the name of the new 
kingdom of Granada; because those tyrants who first 
came to these countries were natives of the kingdom of 
Granada in Spain. 

3. As many iniquitous and cruel men among those 
who gathered from all parts, were notorious butchers 
and shedders of human blood who were very inured 
to, and experienced in the great sins that we have said 
were committed in many parts of the Indies, it follows 
that their fiendish operations, and the circumstances 
and qualities that blackened and aggravated them, were 
such that they have surpassed very many, or indeed all, 
that the others and they themselves have committed 
elsewhere in the Indies. 

4. Of the multitude they have committed in these 
three years, and continue without ceasing to commit, I 
will briefly relate a few. As a man who was robbing and 
murdering in the said kingdom would not allow a gover- 
nor to also rob and kill, the latter brought a suit against 
him, calling many witnesses to prove the slaughter, in- 
justice, and massacres he had done, and is doing; this 
evidence was read, and is to be found in the Council of 
the Indies. 

5. The witnesses in the said law-suit affirm that all 
the kingdom was quiet, and subject to the Spaniards; 
the Indians continually laboured to furnish them pro- 
visions, and to accumulate property for them; they 
brought them all the gold and precious emeralds they 
possessed or could obtain: the lords and inhabitants of 
the towns had been divided among the Spaniards, who 
lay claim to them as the means for obtaining their final 
object, which is gold. Having thus reduced everybody 
to the usual tyranny and slavery, the principal tyrant 
captain commanding them, captured the sovereign of 

New Granada 4°3 

all that country, without any cause or reason, and kept 
him for six or seven months, demanding gold and emer- 
alds of him. 

6. The said king, who was called Bogota, being over- 
come by fear said that he would give a house of the gold 
they demanded, hoping to free himself from the hands of 
his tormenters: he sent some Indians to bring him the 
treasure, and several times they brought a large quantity 
of gold and stones : because he did not give the house of 
gold, the Spaniards declared that he should be killed, 
because he did not fulfil his promise. 

7. The tyrant said that he should be tried by process 
of law, so they prosecuted him, accusing the said king 
of the country. The tyrant gave sentence, condemning 
him to tortures, if he did not give the house of 

8. They tortured him with the cord: they threw 
burning fat on his belly; they put his feet in irons fas- 
tened to a stake, tied his neck to another, while two 
men held his hands; and in this position they put fire 
to his feet. 

9. Every now and then, the tyrant entered and told 
him, that they would kill him by inches with tortures 
if he did not give the gold. And thus they did, and 
killed this lord with tortures. While they were tor- 
menting him, God gave a sign of destestation of that 
cruelty, by causing all that town, where it was com- 
mitted to be burnt. 

10. The other Spaniards imitated their good captain 
and, since they only know how to rend these people, 
they did the same; torturing the lord of the town or 
towns, that had been confided to them, with divers and 
fierce tortures while those lords and their people felt 
themselves safe, and were giving them all the gold and 
emeralds they could: the Spaniards tortured them only 

404 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

to extort more gold and jewels. And in this way they 
burnt and cut to pieces all the lords of that country. 

ii. Terror-stricken by the excessive cruelty prac- 
tised upon the Indians by one of those particular tyrants, 
a great lord called Daytama fled, with many of his people, 
from such inhumanity, and retreated to the mountains. 
This, if it did but avail, they conceive to be the remedy 
and refuge, and this is what the Spaniards call revolt and 

12. The principal tyrant captain hearing this, sent a 
force to that cruel man, whose ferocity and wickedness 
towards the peaceful and submissive Indians had driven 
them to the mountains ; the latter went in pursuit of the 
natives, and because it sufficed not to hide in the bowels 
of the earth, they found a large number of people whom 
they killed, cutting to pieces more than five hundred men, 
women, and children, and sparing no one. 

13. The witnesses also say that before his death, the 
same Prince Daytama had been to see that cruel man 
and had taken him four or five thousand crowns, but 
notwithstanding this, he committed the said slaughter. 

14. Another time a great number of people having 
come to serve the Spaniards, and feeling themselves 
safe, serving with their humility and simplicity, the 
captain entered the town one night where the Indians 
were and commanded that all those Indians should be 
put to the sword while some of them were sleeping, and 
some supping and resting from the labours of the day. 

15. He perpetrated this massacre because it seemed 
good to him to make himself feared by all the people of 
the country. 

16. Another time the captain put all the Spaniards 
on oath, to lead at once as many lords and chiefs and 
common people as each had in his household service, 
to the square, where he had all their heads cut off, thus 

New Granada 405 

killing four or five hundred people. And the witnesses 
say that he thought in this way to pacify the country. 

17. The witnesses depose that one particular tyrant did 
great cruelty, killing, and cutting off the hands and noses 
of many men and women, and destroying many people. 

18. Another time the captain sent the afore-named 
cruel man, with certain Spaniards to the province of 
Bogota, to make inquiry as to who had succeeded to that 
dominion since they had tortured the universal lord 
to death: he marched through many leagues of coun- 
try, capturing as many Indians as he could. 

19. And because the people did not show him the 
lord who had succeeded, he cut off the hands of some 
and gave others to ferocious dogs, which tore them to 
pieces both men, and women; and in this way he killed, 
and destroyed many Indian men and women. 

20. One day, near sunrise, he went to attack some 
lords, or captains and many Indians who felt tranquil 
and secure, because he had assured them and given them 
his word that they should receive no hurt or harm ; con- 
fiding in this assurance they had come down from the 
mountains, where they were hidden, to dwell in this 
town on the plain ; thus he captured a great many of these 
unsuspecting and confiding people, women and men, 
and making them put their hands flat on the ground he 
himself cut them off with a scimitar, saying that he 
punished them because they would not tell where the new 
lord, who had succeeded to that kingdom, was hidden. 

21. Another time, because the Indians did not give 
a coffer full of gold that this cruel captain demanded, 
he sent people to make war on them, in which they 
killed numberless persons, and cut off the hands and 
noses of so many women and men that they could not 
be counted: they gave others to fierce dogs that tore 
them to pieces and ate them. 

406 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

22. Another time, the Indians of a province of that 
kingdom, seeing that the Spaniards had burnt three or 
four principal lords, retreated in fear to a strong rock, 
-to defend themselves from enemies so devoid of hu- 
manity; and according to the witnesses, there may have 
been four or five thousand Indians on the rock. 

23. The above-named captain sent a great and notori- 
ous try ant, who surpassed many of those who have 
charge of destroying those countries, with a certain 
number of Spaniards, to punish those Indians who had 
fled from such a great pestilence and butchery: and he 
declared they were in revolt, seeking to make it appear 
that they had done something wrong, for which the 
Spaniards must punish them and take vengeance: they 
themselves, however, merit any most cruel torture what- 
soever, without mercy, because they are so deprived of 
mercy and compassion towards those innocent creatures. 

24. The Spaniards went to the rock and forced their 
way up, the Indians being naked and without arms; 
then the Spaniards called the Indians with professions 
of peace, assuring them that no harm should be done 
them, if they did not fight; the Indians at once ceased, 
whereupon that most cruel man commanded the Span- 
iards, to seize all the strong positions of the rock, and 
when taken, to surround the Indians. These tigers and 
lions surrounded the tame lambs, and disembowelled 
and put to the sword so many, that they stopped to 
rest, so many had they cut to pieces. 

25. When they had rested a little, the captain or- 
dered that they should kill and throw down from the 
rock, which was very high, all the survivors; and so they 
did. And the witnesses say, that they beheld such a 
mass of Indians thrown from the rock, that there might 
have been seven hundred men together, who were 
crushed to pieces where they fell. 

New Granada 407 

26. To complete their great cruelty, they sought out 
all the Indians who had hidden in the thicket, and he 
commanded all to be put to the sword; and thus they 
killed them, and threw them down from the rock. 

27. Nor would he rest satisfied with the cruel things 
that have been related, but wished to distinguish him- 
self still more and increase the horribleness of his sins, 
by commanding that all the Indians, men and women, 
save those he kept for his own service, who had 
been captured alive (because in these massacres each 
usually chooses a few men, women and children for his 
own use) should be put in a straw house to which he 
set fire: some forty or fifty were thus burnt alive, while 
others were thrown to fierce dogs that tore them to 
pieces and ate them. 

28. Another time, this same tyrant captured many 
Indians in a certain town called Cota which he visited; 
he had fifteen or twenty lords and principal persons 
torn by dogs; and he cut off the hands of many men 
and women, tied them to cords and hung about seventy 
pairs of hands along a beam, so that the other Indians 
should see what had been done to these people; and he 
cut off the noses of many women and children. 

29. Nobody could explain the actions, and cruelty 
of this man, God's enemy, because they are innumerable, 
nor have such deeds as he did in those countries and in 
the province of Guatemala, ever been witnessed or heard 
of since then: during many years he went about those 
countries doing these deeds, burning and destroying the 
inhabitants and their property. 

30. The witnesses in the trial further say, that the 
cruelties and massacres perpetrated in the said new 
kingdom of Granada by the captain himself and, with 
his consent, by all those tyrants and destroyers of the 
human race who were with him, were such that they 

4q8 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

have wasted and exterminated all the country. And 
that unless His Majesty arrests the massacring done 
among the Indians to extort gold which, as they had 
already given all they had, they no longer possess, the 
destruction will shortly be complete, and no Indians of 
any sort will be left to sustain the country, which will be 
left depopulated and desolate. 

31. It should be considered how great and furious 
has been the cruelty and pestilential tyranny of unhappy 
tyrants, in the space of two or three years, since the 
discovery of this kingdom which, as all who have been 
there, and the witnesses at the trial say, was as thickly 
populated as any in the world; they have desolated it 
with massacres, so devoid of mercy, of the fear of God 
and the King, that they say, not a single person will be 
left alive unless His Majesty shortly prevents these in- 
fernal operations. And so I believe it to be, for with 
my own eyes I have seen many, and large countries in 
those parts, which they have destroyed and completely 
depopulated within a brief period. 

32. There are other large provinces, bordering the 
said new kingdom of Granada, called Popayan and Cali : 
also three, or four others that extend for more than five 
hundred leagues ; the Spaniards have rendered them deso- 
late, and destroyed them like the others, unjustly rob- 
bing and torturing to death the numberless inhabitants 
of that most delightful country. 

33. People coming now from there declare that it 
excites compassion to see so many large towns burnt 
and destroyed; towns where formerly there were a 
thousand or two thousand families, are reduced to hardly 
fifty, while others are entirely burned and abandoned. 

34. In other places, from one to three hundred 
leagues of country are found completely deserted ; large 
towns having been burnt and destroyed. 

New Granada 409 

35. Great and cruel tyrants penetrated into New 
Granada from the direction of the province of Quito in 
the kingdom of Peru, and into Popayan and Cali from 
the direction of Cartagena and Uraba, while from Car- 
tagena, other ill-starred tyrants marched through to 
Quito; afterwards others, came from the direction of 
Rio de San Juan, which is on the South coast. All of 
these men united together and they have devastated and 
depopulated more than six hundred leagues of country, 
sending innumerable souls to hell. They are doing the 
same at the present day to the miserable survivors, 
although they are innocent. 

36. And to prove the axiom I laid down in the 
beginning, namely that the tyranny, violence, and injus- 
tice of the Spaniards towards these gentle lambs, ac- 
companied by cruelty, inhumanity, and wickedness, 
most worthy of all fire and torture, which continue in 
the said provinces, go on increasing, I cite the following. 

37. After the massacres and slaughter of the war, 
the people are condemned, as was said, to the horrible 
slavery described above. To one of the devils, two 
hundred Indians were given, to another, three. The devil 
commandant ordered a hundred Indians to be called 
before him and when they promptly came like so many 
lambs, he had the heads of thirty or forty cut off; and 
said to the others : ' ' I will do the same to you, if you 
do not serve me well, and if you leave without my 

38. Now in God's name consider, you, who read 
this, what sort of deeds are these, and whether they do 
not surpass every imaginable cruelty and injustice, and 
whether it squares well with such Christians as these to 
call them devils; and whether it could be worse to give 
the Indians into the charge of the devils of hell than 
to the Christians of the Indies. 

4i o Bartholomew de Las Casas 

39. I will also tell of another such operation; I do 
not know which is the more cruel, the more infernal, and 
nearer the ferocity of wild beasts, this one or that one 
just told. 

40. It has already been said, that the Spaniards of 
the Indies have tamed and trained the strongest and 
most ferocious dogs to kill and tear the Indians to pieces. 

41. Listen and see, all you who are true Christians, 
and also you who are not, whether such deeds have 
ever been heard of in the world ; to feed the said dogs 
they take many Indians in chains with them on their 
journeys, as though they were herds of swine; and they 
kill them, making public butchery of human flesh; and 
one says to the other; "lend me a quarter of one of these 
villeins to give to my dogs to eat, until I kill." It is as 
though they were lending a quarter of pork or of mutton. 

42. There are others, who go hunting with their dogs 
in the morning and when one is asked on his return for 
dinner how it has fared with him, he replies; "it has 
fared well with me, because I have left perhaps fifteen 
or twenty villeins killed by my dogs." 

43. All these and other diabolical things are being 
proved now in law-suits started by some tyrants against 
others. What can be filthier, fiercer, and more inhuman? 

44. I will finish with this, till news comes of other 
deeds of more eminent wickedness, if any such there 
can be: or until, on our return there, we again behold 
them, as we continually have with our own eyes since 
forty-two years. 

45. I protest before God on my conscience that, as I 
believe and hold certain, such are the perdition, harm, 
destruction, depopulation, slaughter, deaths, and great 
and horrible cruelties, and most foul ways of violence, 
injustice, robbery, and massacre, done among those 
people and in all those countries of the Indies, that with 

Conclusion 411 

all I have described, and those upon which I have en- 
larged, I have not told nor enlarged upon, in quality and 
quantity, a ten thousandth part of what has been done 
and is being done to-day. 

46. And that all Christians may have greater com- 
passion on those innocent nations, and that they may 
more sincerely lament their loss and doom, and blame 
and abominate the detestible avarice, ambition, and 
cruelty of the Spaniards, let them all hold this truth for 
certain, in addition to what I have affirmed above; 
namely, that from the time the Indies were discovered 
down to the present, nowhere did the Indians harm any 
Christians, before they had sustained harm, robbery, and 
treachery from them. Nay, they always esteemed them 
immortal, and come from Heaven; and as such they 
received them, until their deeds manifested their charac- 
ter and intentions. 

47. It is well to add something else, that from the 
beginning till the present day the Spaniards have given 
no more thought to providing for the preaching of the 
faith of Jesus Christ to these people than if they were 
dogs or other animals: nay, they have persistently 
afflicted and persecuted the monks, to prevent them 
from preaching, because it seemed to them an impedi- 
ment to the acquisition of the gold and wealth they 
promised themselves in their greedy desires. 

48. And to-day there is not in all the Indies more 
knowledge of God among these people, as to whether 
He is of wood, or in heaven or on earth, than there was 
a hundred years ago, except in new Spain, where monks 
have gone and which is but a very little corner of the 
Indies. And so all have perished and are perishing, 
without faith and without Sacraments. 

I was induced to write this work I, Fray Bartolomeus 
de las Casas, or Casaus, friar of St. Dominic, who by God's 

4i2 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

mercy do go about this Court of Spain, trying to drive 
the hell out of the Indies, and to bring about that all 
those numberless multitudes of souls, redeemed with 
the blood of Jesus Christ, shall not hopelessly perish 
for ever; moved also by the compassion I feel for my 
fatherland, Castile, that God may not destroy it for 
such great sins, committed against His faith and honour 
and against fellow creatures. A few persons of quality 
who reside at this Court and are jealous of God's honour 
and compassionate towards the afflictions and calamities 
of others, urged me to this work although it was my own 
intention which my continual occupations had never 
allowed me to put into effect. 

2. I brought it to a close at Valencia the 8th of De- 
cember 1542, when all the violence was more terrible, 
and the oppression, tyranny, massacres, robberies, de- 
structions, slaughter, depopulation, anguish, and calam- 
ity aforesaid, are actually at their height in all the 
regions where the Christians of the Indies are ; although 
in some places they are fiercer, and more abominable 
than in others. 

3. Mexico and its neighbourhood are a little less 
badly off; there, at least, such things dare not be done 
publicly, because there is somewhat more justice than 
elsewhere, although very little, for they still kill the 
people with infernal burdens. 

4. I have great hope, for the Emperor and King of 
Spain our Lord Don Carlos, Fifth of this name is get- 
ting to understand the wickedness and treachery that, 
contrary to the will of God, and of himself, is and has 
been done to those people and in those countries ; hereto- 
fore the truth has been studiously hidden from him, 
that it is his duty to extirpate so many evils and bring 
succour to that new world, given him by God, as to one 
who is a lover and observer of justice, whose glorious, 

Conclusion 4 T 3 

and happy life and Imperial state may God Almighty 
long prosper, to the relief of all his universal Church, 
and for the final salvation of his own Royal soul. Amen. 

Since the above was written, some laws and edicts 
have been published by His Majesty, who was then in 
the town of Barcelona, in the month of November 1542 
and in the town of Madrid the following year; these con- 
tain such provisions as now seem suitable to bring about 
the cessation of the great wickedness and sin committed 
against God and our fellow creatures, to the total ruin 
and destruction of that world. 

2. After many conferences and debates amongst 
conscientious and learned authorities, who were assem- 
bled in the town of Valladolid, His Majesty made the said 
laws; acting finally on the decision and opinion of 
the greater part of all those who gave their votes in 
writing, and who drew nearer to the law of Jesus Christ, 
as true Christians. They were likewise free from the 
corruption and foulness of the treasures stolen from the 
Indies that soiled the hands, and still more the souls 
of many in authority who, in their blindness, had com- 
mitted unscrupulous destruction. 

3. When these laws were published, the agents of 
the tyrants, then at Court, made many copies of them ; 
they displeased all these men who considered that 
they shut the doors to their participation in what was 
robbed and taken by tyranny: and they sent the copies 
to divers parts of the Indies. 

4. None of those who there had charge of robbing 
the Indians, and of finishing their destruction by their 
tyranny, had ever observed any order, but such disorder 
as might have been made by Lucifer ; when they saw the 
copies, before the arrival of the new judges who were to 
execute them, it is said and believed that they had been 

414 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

warned of what was coming by those in Spain, who 
have till now encouraged their sins and violence. They 
were so agitated, that when the good judges who were 
to carry out the laws arrived, they resolved to set aside 
shame and obedience to the King, just as they had al- 
ready lost all love and fear of God. 

5. They thus determined to let themselves be called 
traitors, for they are cruel and unbridled tyrants, par- 
ticularly in the kingdoms of Peru, where at present, in 
this year of 1546, such horrible, frightful, and execrable 
deeds are committed, as have never been done, either 
in the Indies or in the world; not only do such things 
happen among the Indians whom they have already all 
or nearly all killed, but among themselves. In the absence 
of the King's justice to punish them, God's justice has 
come from heaven to bring dissension amongst them and 
to make one to be the executioner of the other. 

6. Shielded by the rebellion of these tyrants, those 
in all the other regions, would not obey the laws and, 
under pretext of appealing against them, have also re- 
volted ; they resent having to abdicate the dignities and 
power they have usurped, and to losing the Indians 
whom they hold in perpetual slavery. 

7. Where they have ceased to kill quickly by the 
sword, they kill slowly by personal servitude and other 
unjust and intolerable vexations. And till now the King 
has not succeeded in preventing them because all, small 
and great, go there to pilfer, some more, some less, some 
publicly and openly, others secretly and under disguise; 
and with the pretext that they are serving the king, they 
dishonour God, and rob and destroy the King. 

The present work was printed in the most noble, and 
faithful town of Seville, at the house of Sebastian 
Truxillo book-printer. To our Lady of Grace. 

Letter 415 

The Year M.D.LII 

What follows is part of a letter and report, written 
by one of those very men who went to these regions, 
recounting the deeds the captain did, and allowed to be 
done, in the countries he visited. When the said letter 
and report was given with other things to be bound, the 
bookseller either forgot or lost one or more pages con- 
taining frightful things, that had all been given me 
by one of those who did them, all of which I had in my 
possession; what follows is therefore without beginning 
or end. But as this piece that is left, is full of notorious 
things, it seemed well to me not to leave it unprinted: 
because I believe it will not excite less compassion and 
horror in Your Highness, than some of the irregularities 
already related, as well also as the desire to correct them. 


He allowed the Indians to be chained and put in 
prisons, and so it was done. And the said captain took 
three or four in chains for himself; by so doing and by 
robbing the Indians of their supplies instead of providing 
for necessary sowing and populating, the natives of the 
country were reduced to such want, that great numbers 
of them were found in the streets starved to death. 

2. He killed about ten thousand souls by making the 
Indians carry the Spaniards' baggage to and from the 
beach, because all who reached the coast died of the heat. 

3. After this he followed the same trail and road as 
Juan de Ampudia, sending the Indians he had brought 
from Quito, a day in front, to discover the Indian towns 
and to sack them so that he and his people might avail 
themselves of them on their arrival. Those Indians be- 
longed to him and his companions, one of whom had two 

416 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

hundred, another three hundred, according to the number 
each brought with him, and they carried whatever their 
masters robbed. And in this they treated children and 
women most cruelly. 

4. He followed the same course in Quito, burning all 
the country and the stores of maize belonging to the 
lords; he consented to the killing of great numbers of 
sheep, all of which form the principal provision and main- 
tenance of the natives and of the Spaniards; for the 
latter use two or three hundred just to eat the brains 
and fat alone, and waste the meat. 

5. His friendly Indians who went with him, killed 
great numbers of sheep, just to eat the hearts, not eating 
anything else. And so two men in a province called 
Purua killed twenty-five sheep and pack-sheep, just to 
eat the brains and fat, although among the Spaniards 
they cost twenty and twenty-five pesos each. 

6. By such excessive disorder, they killed more than 
a hundred thousand head of animals, which reduced the 
country to very great want, while the natives died of 
starvation in great numbers. Although there was more 
maize in Quito than can be told, this bad order of things 
brought such penury on the people that a measure of 
maize came to cost ten pesos, and a sheep the same. 

7. When the said captain returned from the coast, 
he determined to leave Quito, to go in search of Captain 
Juan de Ampudia. He took more than two hundred 
foot and horsemen, among whom he led many inhab- 
itants of the country of Quito. The said captain per- 
mitted the colonists who accompanied him to draw the 
lords from their departments and as many Indians as 
they liked, and this they did. 

8. Alonso Sanchez Nuyta took a lord and more than 
a hundred Indians with their wives ; Pedro Cobo and his 
cousin, more than a hundred and fifty with their wives 

Letter 417 

and many of the children, who otherwise all died of star- 
vation. And so likewise Moran, an inhabitant of Pop- 
ayan, had more than two hundred persons; and all the 
other inhabitants and soldiers also took as many as each 

9. And the said soldiers asked him if he would give 
them licence to put the Indians they brought with 
them, in prison; and he said yes, until they died, and 
when these were dead, also others ; for if the Indians were 
vassals of His Majesty, they were also of the Spaniards, 
and they died in war. 

10. In this way the said captain left Quito and went 
to a town called Otabalo, which he owned at that time 
by virtue of the distribution, and he demanded five 
hundred men for the war from its lord, who gave them 
to him with some Indian chiefs. He distributed some of 
these people among the soldiers and the rest he took 
with himself, some with packs, and others in chains, and 
some, who served him and brought him food, were free: 
the soldiers also took them, bound in this way with chains 
and cords. 

11. When they left the province of Quito they took 
away more than six thousand Indians, men and women 
of whom not twenty men returned to their country: 
because they all died of the great and excessive la- 
bours imposed on them, in countries far from their 
native land. 

12. It happened at this time, that one Alonso Sanchez 
was sent by the said captain in command of certain 
people in a province; on the way, he met a number of 
women and boys loaded with provisions who, instead of 
fleeing, waited for him, to give them to him; and he had 
them all put to the sword. 

13. And a miracle happened when a soldier was 
stabbing an Indian woman; at the first blow the sword 


4i8 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

broke in half, and at the second only the handle was left, 
without his being able to wound her. Another soldier 
with a double bladed dagger wanted to stab another 
Indian woman, but at the first blow four fingers' length of 
the point broke off, and at the second nothing remained 
but the handle alone. 

14. When the said captain left Quito, leading away 
such a quantity of natives, separating them from their 
wives, giving some of the young girls to those Indians he 
took with him, and others to those who were left behind 
on account of their old age, a woman came behind 
him, with a little child in her arms, weeping and 
begging him not to take her husband away from her, 
because she had three little children whom she would 
not be able to bring up, and who would die of starvation; 
and seeing that he answered her roughly the first time, 
she came back a second with louder cries saying, that 
her children would die of starvation : and when she saw, 
that he commanded she should be driven away and 
that he would not release her husband, she threw the 
child on some stones and killed it. 

15. When the said captain arrived in the province 
of Lili at a town called Palo near the great river, he 
found there the Captain Juan de Ampudia, who had 
gone in advance to explore and pacify the country; the 
said Ampudia had founded a town called Ampudia, in 
the name of His Majesty and of the Marquis Francisco 
Pizarro, and had appointed Pedro Solano de Quinones 
and eight rulers as ordinary judges; and the greater 
part of the country was at peace, and divided. As soon 
as he knew that the said captain was at the river, he went 
to see him accompanied by many of the inhabitants and 
peaceful Indians, loaded with provisions and fruit; and 
from thenceforward all the Indians in the neighbourhood 
went to visit the said captain, and to bring him food. 

Letter 4*9 

1 6. These were the Indians from Namudi, Palo, Soli- 
man, and Bolo; but because they did not bring as much 
maize as he wanted, he ordered many Spaniards to go 
with their Indians, men and women to get maize, wherever 
they found it. So they went to Bolo and to Palo, where 
they found the Indians, tranquil in their houses; and the 
said Spaniards and those who went with them, stole 
and carried off the maize, gold, stuffs, and all the Indians 
possessed, and they bound many of them. 

1 7 . When the Indians saw that they were treated so 
badly, they went to complain to the said captain of what 
had been done, and to request that the Spaniards should 
restore all they had taken from them. He would not 
have anything restored, but told them that his men 
would not go there a second time. 

1 8. Within three or four days the Spaniards returned 
for maize, and to rob the Indians of the town. The 
Indians having seen that the said captain kept and 
observed his word so little, all the country revolted, 
which did much harm and disservice to God Our Lord, 
and to His Majesty. 

19. So the whole country is left deserted, because the 
people have been destroyed by their enemies the Olomas 
and Manipos : these are a warlike people from the moun- 
tains, who descended every day to the plains to capture 
and despoil them, seeing that their towns and native 
country were left abandoned; and the most powerful 
among them ate the weaker, because they were all dying 
of starvation. 

20. Having done this, the said captain returned to 
the said country of Ampudia, where he was received as 
General and seven days later he again left to go to the 
places called Lili and Peti, accompanied by more than 
two hundred men on foot and on horse. 

2 1 . Afterwards the said commander sent his captain 

42o Bartholomew de Las Casas 

in all directions, making cruel war on the natives; and 
so they killed great numbers of Indians, men and women, 
and burnt their houses and stole their goods: this lasted 
many days. 

22. The lords of the country seeing that they were 
killing and destroying them, sent some peaceable Indi- 
ans, with provisions. And the said captain having left 
for a settlement called Yce, he at once sent some Span- 
iards to rob, capture, and kill as many Indians as they 
could, commanding that many houses should be burnt; 
and so they burnt more than a hundred. 

23. From there he went to another town, called 
Tolilicuy, 1 where the lord at once came forth peaceably 
with many Indians : and the said captain demanded gold 
of him and of his Indians. The lord said he had but 
little, but that he would give him what he had. They 
all immediately began to bring him what they could. 

24. The said captain gave each of the Indians a ticket 
bearing the name of the said Indian who had given him 
gold, threatening that any Indian who did not pay and 
was without this ticket, should be thrown to the dogs. 
Terrified by this, all the Indians who had gold, gave him 
all that they could ; and those who had none fled to the 
mountain and to other towns, for fear of being killed; 
for which reason a great number of natives perished. 

25. The said captain forthwith ordered the lords to 
send two Indians to another town, called Dagua, to order 
the inhabitants to come peaceably to him, and bring 
him a quantity of gold. 

26. On arriving at another town, he sent a number of 
Spaniards, and Indians from Tolilicuy to capture many 
Indians, and so the following day they brought back 
more than a hundred persons with them. He took all 

1 Also spelled Tulilicuy in other places of this letter. 

Letter 4 2 1 

those capable of carrying loads, for himself and the 
soldiers, and put them in chains so that they all died; 
and the said captain gave the infants to the said lords 
of Tolilicuy to be eaten. And to-day in the house of the 
said Lord Tolilicuy there are the skins of the infants 
full of ashes. 

27. Without saying anything, he departed from 
there for the provinces of Calili, where he joined Captain 
Juan de Ampudia, who had been sent by him to explore 
the country by another route ; both the one and the other 
did much slaughter and much injury to the native 
people wherever they went. 

28. The said Juan de Ampudia arrived at a place, the 
lord of which was called Bitacon; he had prepared some 
pits for his defence, into which two horses belonging to 
Antonio Redondo and Marcus Marquez fell; the latter 
died but the other not. In consequence of this the said 
Ampudia ordered as many as possible of the Indians, 
men and women, to be captured; more than a hundred 
persons were captured whom they threw into those pits 
alive where they killed them, and they burnt more than 
a hundred houses in that town. 

29. Thus they joined one another at a large town 
and, without calling the Indians pacifically, nor sending 
interpreters to summon them, they made cruel war on 
them, and persecuted them, and killed great numbers of 
them. And as soon as they joined one another as has 
been said, the aforenamed Ampudia told the captain 
what he had done at Bitacon, and how he had thrown 
so many people into the pits; and the said captain re- 
plied that he had done very well; and that he himself 
had done the same at Riobamba, which is in the province 
of Quito, where he threw more than two hundred persons 
into the pits; both stayed here, making war throughout 
the country. 

422 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

30. After this he entered the province of Bird or 
Anzerma, making cruel war of fire and blood, from this 
province to the salt ponds. From there he sent Fran- 
cisco Garcia Tobar forward, making cruel war on the 
natives as is told above; and the Indians went to him 
two by two, making signs that they sought peace in the 
name of all the country, and asking what the Spaniards 
wished ; for if they wanted gold or women or provisions, 
they should be given them, and begging that they should 
not be killed in this way: and this the Spaniards them- 
selves have confessed to be true. 

31. And the said Francisco Garcia told them to go 
away, that they were drunk, and that he did not under- 
stand them, after which he returned to where the said 
captain was and they set out to march through all the 
province, making most cruel war on the natives, plunder- 
ing and killing them ; and more than two thousand souls 
were carried off from there between him and his sol- 
diers, all of whom died in chains. 

32. Before they left the inhabited country, they killed 
more than five hundred persons. Thus he returned to 
the province of Calili; and if on the way some Indian, 
man or woman, became so tired that he could not walk, 
they stabbed him; if he was in chains they cut off his 
head, so as not to undo them and so that the others 
seeing this, should not feign being ill. 

33. In this way they all died, and on this journey all 
the people he had brought from Quito, Pasto, Quilla, 
Cagua, Paria, Popayan, Lili, Cali, and Anzerma, per- 
ished in very great numbers. On his return march, 
as soon as he entered the large town, they killed all they 
could. And they captured three hundred persons in 
that day. 

34. From the province of Lili, he sent the said cap- 
tain, Juan de Ampudia, with many people to the place 

Letter 423 

and dwellings of Lili, in order to capture all the Indians, 
men and women, that he could, for carrying the packs; 
because all the numerous people he had brought from 
Anzerma, had already died. And the said Juan de Am- 
pudia brought more than a thousand persons, many of 
whom he killed. 

35. The said captain took all the people he needed, 
giving the rest to the soldiers, who at once put them in 
chains, where they all died: after depriving the said 
country of the Spaniards, and of the natives in such 
great numbers, as is seen by the few that are left, he set 
out for Popayan. 

36. On the way he left behind a live Spaniard, whose 
name was Martin de Aguirre, because he could not walk 
as much as the healthy ones. On his arrival at Popa- 
yan he dwelt in that town, and began to destroy, 
and rob the Indians of the surrounding country, 
with the same disorder as he had done in the 

37. He made a royal stamp here and melted all the 
gold he had gathered, and that Juan de Ampudia had 
gathered before he came ; and without any accounting or 
explanation, and without giving any part to any soldier, 
he took it all for himself, except that he gave what he 
chose to some whose horses were dead. This done, 
and after taking the fifths of His Majesty he said he was 
going to Cuzco to report to his Governor; so he set out 
for Quito, taking a great number of Indians, men, and 
women, all of whom died on the journey and in that 
place. And further the said captain returned to destroy 
the royal stamp he had made. 

38. It is well at this point to relate a word that this 
man said of himself, showing that he very well knew 
the evil and cruelty that he did. He spoke thus: "In 
fifty years, those that pass by here and hear of these 

424 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

things, will say: 'It was here that the tyrant so and so 
marched. ' " 

39. These in-comings and out-goings of this captain 
in those kingdoms, and this way of visiting those people, 
living safely in their country, and these operations prac- 
tised by him against them, Your Highness should know 
and be convinced, have always been done by the Span- 
iards everywhere in the same way, from the discovery of 
the Indies till the present day. 


The Bull Sublimis Deus 

Latin Text 1 

Paulus Papa tertius universis Christi fidelibus pras- 
sentes litteras inspecturis salutem et Apostolicam 
benedictionem. Sublimis Deus sic dilexit humanum 
genus, ut hominem talem condiderit qui non solum 
boni sicut caeteras creaturas particeps esset, sed ipsum 
Summum Bonum inaccesibile et invisibile attingere et 
facie ad faciem videre posset; et cum homo ad vitam 
et beatitudinem aeternam obeundam, etiam sacrarum 
literarum testimonio, creatus sit, et hanc vitam et beati- 
tudinem asternam, nemo consequi valeat, nisi per fidem 
Domini nostri Jesu Christi fateri necesse est, hominem 
talis conditionis et naturae esse, ut Fidem Christi recipere 
possit, et quemqunque, qui naturam hominis fortitus 
est, ad ipsam Fidem recipiendam habilem esse. Nee 
enim quisque adeo desipere creditur, ut se secredat 
Fidem obtinere posse, et medium summe necessarium, 
nequaquam attingere. 

1 The Latin text is reprinted from Appendix A in the work 
of Carlo Gutierrez, Fray Bartolome de las Casas: Sus Tiempos 

y Su Apostolado. 



The Bull Sublimis Deus 

Paul III Pope To all faithful Christians to whom 
this writing ma)'- come, health in Christ our Lord and 
the apostolic benediction. 

The sublime God so loved the human race that He 
created man in such wise that he might participate, not 
only in the good that other creatures enjoy, but endowed 
him with capacity to attain to the inaccessible and 
invisible Supreme Good and behold it face to face; and 
since man, according to the testimony of the sacred 
scriptures, has been created to enjoy eternal life and 
happiness, which none may obtain save through faith 
in our Lord Jesus Christ, it is necessary that he should 
possess the nature and faculties enabling him to receive 
that faith; and that whoever is thus endowed should 
be capable of receiving that same faith. Nor is it 
credible that any one should possess so little under- 
standing as to desire the faith and yet be destitute of 
the most necessary faculty to enable him to receive it. 
Hence Christ, who is the Truth itself, that has never 
failed and can never fail, said to the preachers of the 
faith whom He chose for that office "Go ye and teach 
all nations. " He said all, without exception, for all are 
capable of receiving the doctrines of the faith. 


428 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

Hinc Veritas ipsa quae nee falli, nee fallere potest, cum 
praedicatores fidei ad officium praedicationis destinaret, 
dixisse dignoscitur. Euntes, Docete Omnes Gentes. Omnes 
dixit, absque omni deletu, cum omnes fidei disciplines ca- 
paces existant. Quod videns ipsius humani generis 
emulus qui bonis operibus, ut pereant semper adversatur, 
modum excogavit ac temis in auditum, quo impediret, ne 
verbum Dei gentibus salve fierent, predicaretur, ac quos- 
dam suos satelites commovit, qui suam cupiditatem ad 
implere, cupientes occidentales, et meridionales Indos, 
et alias gentes, quae temporibus istis ad nostram noti- 
tiam pervenerunt, sub prastextu, quod Fidei Catolicae 
expertes existant, uti muta animalia ad nostra obsequia 
redigendos esse passim asserere praesumat. 

Nos igitur qui eiusdem Domini Nostri vices, licet 
immeriti, gerimus in terris, et oves gregis sui nobis 
commissas, quae extra eius ovile sunt, ad ipsum ovile 
toto nixu exquirimus. Attendentes Indos ipsos, ut 
pote veros homines, non solum Christianae Fidei capaces 
existere, sed ut nobis innotuit, ad fidem ipsam promp- 
tissime currere. Ac volentes super his congruis remediis 
providere, praedictos Indos et omnes alias gentes ad 
notitiam Christianorum imposterum deventuras, licet 
extra Fidem Christi existant sua libertate ac rerum 
suarum dominio privatos, seu. privandos non esse. Im5 
libertate et dominio huiusmodi, uti et potiri, et gaudere, 
liber e et licit e posse, nee in servitutem redigi debere. 
Ac si secus fieri contigerit irritum et innane. Ipsosque 
Indos et alias gentes verbi Dei praedicatione et exemplo 
bonae vitas ad dictam Fidem Christi invitandos fore, et 
praesentium literarum transumptis manu alicuius No- 
tarii publici subscripts, ac sigillo alicuius personae in 
dignitate Ecclesiastica constitutae munitis, eamdem 
fidem adhibendam esse, quae originalibus adhiberetur 
auctoritate Apostolice per prassentes litteras decernimus 

The Bull Sublimis Deus 429 

The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good 
deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding 
and envying this, invented a means never before heard 
of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God's 
word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satel- 
lites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish 
abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and 
other people of whom We have recent knowledge should 
be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pre- 
tending that they are incapable of receiving the catholic 

We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the 
power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring 
those sheep of His flock who are outside, into the fold 
committed to our charge, consider, however, that the 
Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable 
of understanding the catholic faith but, according to our 
information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. Desir- 
ing to provide ample remedy for these evils, we define and 
declare by these our letters, or by any translation thereof 
signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal 
of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit 
shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding 
whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, 
the said Indians and all other people who may later be 
discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived 
of their liberty or the possession of their property, even 
though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ ; and that 
they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy 
their liberty and the possession of their property; nor 
should they be in any way enslaved ; should the contrary 
happen, it shall be null and of no effect. 

By virtue of our apostolic authority We define and 
declare by these present letters, or by any translation 
thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the 

43° Bartholomew de Las Casas 

et declaramus. Non obstantibus prasmissis, casterisque 
contrariis quibuscumque. 

Datum Romae Anno Domini millessimo quingen- 
tessimo trigessimo septimo. Quarto nonas Junii Pon- 
tificatus nostri, Anno tertio. 

The Bull Sublimis Deus 43 * 

seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, which shall thus 
command the same obedience as the originals, that the 
said Indians and other peoples should be converted to 
the faith of Jesus Christ by preaching the word of God 
and by the example of good and holy living. 

Given in Rome in the year of our Lord 1537. The 
fourth of June and of our Pontificate, the third year. 



The Prince. Our officials of India House, who reside 
in the city of Seville: Rev. Fray Bartholomew de Las 
Casas, bishop-elect of the province of Chiapa, goes to 
this city in order to send off forty priests, who are now 
going to the province of Honduras; and also to give 
orders concerning their departure and other matters 
which he understands. I therefore wish the said bishop 
to be given every facility in these matters so that he 
may be enabled to arrange quickly, as is due to one in 
our service, and I command and order you that in the 
aforesaid, as in all things, you will offer him help, and 
assist him and the said priests; and in thus doing, you 
will be serving me. From Valladolid 13th day of the 
month of February 1544 — I, the Prince, etc. 

The Prince. Our officials of India House, who reside 
in the city of Seville; as the bulls of the bishop of the 
province of Chiapa, the Reverend Father Fray Bar- 
tholomew de Las Casas have arrived and Diego Navarro, 

1 The documents forming this Appendix are translations from 
the Spanish text published in the second volume of the Spanish 
Academician, Don Antonio Maria Fabie's Vida y Escritos de 
Fray B. de Las Casas. Madrid, 1879. 


Royal Ordinances 433 

who brought them by our orders is entitled by the 
agreement made with him to be paid for the cost and 
the delivery of the said bulls, amounting, according to 
the declaration of Pedro de Tapia and of Diego de 
Gaona, apostolic notaries, and of certain money changers 
in Rome, to eighty-eight thousand nine hundred and 
twenty-five maravedis, and since this has to be deducted 
from the five hundred thousand maravedis, which the 
said bishop receives from us in New Spain, I order that 
out of whatever maravedis are in your charge, our 
treasurer shall pay the said Diego Navarro or his author- 
ised representative the said eighty- eight thousand nine 
hundred and twenty-five maravedis. You will take 
care that they are collected according to the cedula 
which I send by him. Let me know what you do in this 
matter, and do not fail to do so. 

Dated in Valladolid, etc. 
Archives of the Indies, Council of Guatemala, register 
of property. Royal commands issued to the authorities, 
corporations, and private persons of the district, years 
1529 to 1551. Desk 100, drawer 1st. Packet ist. 

The Prince. By these presents I give permission 
and faculty to you, Rev. Fray Bartholomew de Las 
Casas, bishop-elect of the province of Chiapa to leave 
our realms, and dominions and go to our Indies, Islands, 
and "Terra Firma" of the ocean sea, accompanied by 
four black slaves for your personal service and establish- 
ment, free of all duty, as well from the two ducats for 
their licences, as from the "almoxarifazgo" duties. 1 
Whatever sum this amounts to, I exempt you; and we 
instruct our officials in those islands and provinces to 
which the said slaves are to be sent, to take charge of 

1 Ancient name for the duties on imports and exports. 

434 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

this original document and place it in the chest of the 
Three Keys, so that the said slaves shall be unable to 
make more than the one voyage for which we give you 
permission by this licence. Dated in the town of Val- 
ladolid 13th day of February 1544 — I, the Prince, etc. 

The Prince. Reverend Father in Christ, Fray 
Bartholomew de Las Casas, bishop-elect of the province 
of Chiapa I have been informed that the province of 
Socousco is within the boundaries of your diocese. Know- 
ing this and with the confidence I place in you, my will 
is to place the said province under your charge so that, 
as prelate you will have the care of the spiritual affairs 
in it, until, as aforesaid, a bishop is provided for it. 
I therefore order and entrust you as prelate to take 
charge of the spiritual welfare of the said province until 
as said, a prelate is provided for it. Of the tithes of the 
said province you are to take one fourth part, and the 
other three parts shall be distributed among the ecclesi- 
astical ministers who at present serve in that province; 
and in the repairs and decorations of its churches. The 
fourth part, of which you have the use, shall be expended 
in your personal visits throughout the said provinces and 
in performing their pontifical functions until the prelate 
we shall appoint goes to reside in his bishopric. Dated 
in Valladolid 13th day of February 1544 — I, the Prince, 

The Prince. Reverend Father in Christ, Fray 
Bartholomew de Las Casas, bishop-elect of the city of 
Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa. You already know 
that the Emperor King, my sovereign, having seen the 
necessit}?- of providing and ordering certain things tending 
to the better government of the Indies, the better treat- 
ment of its natives, and the better administration of 

Royal Ordinances 435 

justice, and in order to fulfil the duties he owes to the 
service of God our Lord, and in the discharge of his 
royal conscience has, after much deliberation, ordered 
certain ordinances to be drawn up. As it afterwards 
appeared necessary and advantageous to explain certain 
clauses in the said ordinances and to further strengthen 
others, certain ordinances and declarations were made, 
many of whose articles have been rectified for the 
benefit, preservation, and good treatment of the natives 
of the said Indies, their lives and properties. They may 
all thus be well treated as free subjects and vassals of 
His Majesty (which they are) and instructed in the Holy 
Catholic Faith, as you will see by the copies of the said 
ordinances and declarations, which I order to be sent to 
you with this letter, signed by Juan de Samano, our 
secretary. And whatever I have commanded in our 
ordinances and in our cedulas and provisions, which I 
now renew, I send and order our viceroys, presidents and 
the auditors of our audiencias and royal chancelleries 
of the said Indies, our governors and our judges that 
with great zeal and diligence they obey, comply with, 
and have them proclaimed. They shall rigorously pun- 
ish all who rebel against these ordinances, and many of 
the said ordinances shall be given to the priests who are 
in those parts that they may be made known to the 
natives, and procure obedience to them, and report 
those who do not fulfil them, to the said audiencia. 
I also think it advisable to mention this to you, feeling 
confident that as you are the pastor and protector of 
the native Indians in your bishopric, and are bound to 
be more zealous in procuring their better welfare and 
in preserving their spiritual and temporal development, 
you will, therefore, do this and take greater care to en- 
sure the execution of what has been enacted for their 
benefit. Thus I charge you and I command you to see 

436 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

that this is carried out, and to exercise great vigilance 
and care to ensure the observance of the said statutes 
and the execution of their provisions. And should 
any person or persons violate these order's, you will notify 
the governors and judges in those parts so that they 
may punish them according to the provisions of the 
statutes. Should the latter prove remiss , neglectful , or in- 
clined to dissimulate, you will report to the President and 
auditors of Our Audiencia and Royal Chancellery of the 
Confines, indicating those who have offended and in what 
way, so that they may order the guilty to be punished 
in conformity with the commands we have sent them. 
In case the said President and auditors fail to correct 
and punish them, after seeing your statement — a thing 
we do not believe — you will notify us of everything in 
order that we may have them punished as we may think 
fit. In doing this you will have fulfilled the duties you 
owe to the service of God, our Lord, and in the discharge 
of your conscience ; moreover the Emperor my sovereign 
will also be served. Dated in Valladolid, 13th day of 
February 1544. I the Prince, etc. 

Don Carlos by Divine Grace, August Emperor, King 
of Germany; Dona Juana his mother, and the same 
Don Carlos by the grace of God, Kings of Castile and 
Leon, etc. To you, Rev. Father in Christ, Bartholomew de 
Las Casas, bishop-elect of the city of Ciudad Real of the 
plains of Chiapa, health and grace. You well know that 
on account of the good reports that we had of your 
character, we presented you to our most Holy Father 
as bishop of the said diocese, and though the bulls have 
not been despatched, the service of God Our Lord, 
the instruction and conversion of the natives of the 
said bishopric and the good government and advance- 
ment of the Church and its divine teachings, require 

Royal Ordinances 437 

that you go with all haste to the said provinces to 
undertake the said teaching and conversion and the 
other matters with which we have charged you. Were 
you to await the arrival of the said bulls, certain mis- 
fortunes might in the meantime occur there which would 
displease God our Lord, and not be in accordance with 
our duties to His service in the Indies. It was therefore 
agreed that without awaiting the said bulls, you should 
go to the said province, and we approve it. Therefore 
we pray and command you that as soon as you receive 
this you will start for the said province of Chiapa, with- 
out awaiting the said bulls: you will enquire into and 
find out the state of the spiritual affairs of the province 
and also what churches and monasteries have been built. 
What tithes there have been and in what way they have 
been spent and distributed. If the necessary churches 
have not been built you will see that they are immedi- 
ately erected in such places as you judge best, placing 
priests to administer the Holy Sacraments and to dili- 
gently instruct the natives of those towns in all matters 
relating to our holy Catholic Faith. In the meantime, 
we, as patrons of the said churches and the others in 
our Indies, command persons to be named to those bene- 
fices who will assume charge of them. You will like- 
wise see that the divine services are carried out with the 
necessary reverence, decency, and decorum, and that 
the natives of the said district are instructed in the 
Holy Catholic faith; you will see that the said priests 
and others who reside in the said provinces live honestly, 
and that those who are charged with the education of 
the Indians in the teachings of our Holy Catholic Faith 
fulfil their duties. We command that the President and 
the auditors of our Audiencia and Royal Chancellery of 
the Confines, as well as all other judges and subjects of the 
said province of Chiapa, shall give you all the above 

438 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

mentioned, and shall favour and aid you in whatever 
you ask of them or is necessary. For all of which we 
name you and give you full power by this, our letter 
with all its incidents, dependencies, annexes, and con- 
nexes. You are notified by this letter that you are not 
authorised to exercise jurisdiction or other functions 
forbidden to bishops-elect before they are confirmed 
and consecrated. Dated in the town of Valladolid 
13th day of February etc. 

Don Carlos, etc. To you, the Rev. Father in Christ, 
Bartholomew de Las Casas bishop-elect of the province 
of Chiapa, health and grace. Be it known to you that 
we have been informed that in your diocese, many Indi- 
ans have been hunted and driven to the hills and mount- 
ains by the cruel treatment of Spaniards living there, 
and of others who have gone there of their own free 
will. And because we are desirous that the said Indians 
should be pacified and taught our Holy Catholic Faith, 
and should be brought back to the towns they used to 
inhabit to again live there and be taught the Christian 
doctrines, we have decided, on account of the great con- 
fidence we have in you, to beg you to endeavour to bring 
the said Indians to peaceful terms. We therefore charge 
and command you that upon your arrival there you will 
endeavour to procure peace, and to instruct all the In- 
dians who have been driven out of the said bishopric, 
in the knowledge of the Holy Catholic Faith. And 
you will persuade them to return to the towns they used 
to inhabit or to the places indicated by you, which you 
think more suitable. And that they may come the 
more willingly, you will promise and assure them in our 
name that if they come and populate the said towns, 
they shall not be molested either now or at any time 
during our royal reign; neither they, nor their de- 

Royal Ordinances 439 

scendants, nor the towns they inhabit. By these presents 
we promise that should they come to peaceful terms as 
stated, we will not molest them neither during this 
reign nor at any other time. We moreover command 
that for a period of four years they shall neither be fined 
nor taxed by our officials nor by any other persons; 
and that they may be more relieved from work, our 
will is that they shall be free of all tribute. You 
will have special oversight of their good treatment 
and of their instruction and conversion, and you 
will advise us what number of Indians have become 
peaceful through these means and also what dis- 
tricts they have peopled. Dated in the town of 
Valladolid etc. 

The Prince. Reverend Father in Christ, Francis 
Marroquin, bishop of the province of Guatemala: I am 
informed by Our Council that you have interfered and 
are interfering in the spiritual affairs pertaining to the 
diocese of Chiapa and know its affairs as though you 
were its bishop, being as it is the lawful church and 
having its chapter, and the see being at present vacant. 
The Emperor King, my sovereign, has presented to the 
said bishopric the Reverend Fray Bartholomew de Las 
Casas, and we have despatched him thither without 
waiting for his bulls. You are aware that in a lawfully 
erected diocese it belongs to the chapter during the 
vacancy of the see, to take cognisance of what happens 
there. Therefore I command you that from the day 
that you receive this, you will henceforth, neither know 
nor try to find out and interfere as a bishop in any- 
thing pertaining to the said bishopric of Chiapa, and 
that you will leave the chapter of the vacant see to 
act as is customary during a vacancy. Dated in Val- 
ladolid etc. 

440 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

The Prince. Don Carlos, by Divine Grace august 
Emperor, King of Germany; Dona Juana, his mother 
and the same Don Carlos, by the grace of God, Kings 
of Castile and Leon etc. To you Rev. Father in Christ, 
Bartholomew de Las Casas, bishop-elect of the city of 
Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa, health and grace 
be with you. You well know how we have sent you, 
without awaiting your bulls, to the said province to 
undertake the spiritual affairs there and, because our 
wishes are that pending the arrival of the said bulls, 
you shall be entitled to collect the ecclesiastical tithes 
of that bishopric and to distribute them according to 
and in the manner authorised by the foundation law 
of the diocese, we command you, pending the arrival 
of the bulls authorising you to take possession of the 
said bishopric, to collect all the ecclesiastical tithes of 
that bishopric. By these presents we command all 
persons who should pay them, to bring them to you or 
to whomever you authorise to receive them, just as 
though you had already taken possession of the diocese 
by virtue of the said bulls. The tithes thus collected 
you shall spend and distribute each year on the things 
and in such wise as the foundation charter provided, and 
for their collection we give you full power, with its 
incidents, dependencies, annexes, and connexes. We 
likewise order that our judges and the inhabitants of 
the said province shall not place nor allow to be placed 
any impediment whatsoever in your way and shall leave 
you free to collect the said tithes; and should necessity 
arise, they shall help and assist you, and shall compel 
the tithe-payers to pay you the tithes as beforesaid — 
Dated in the town of Valladolid 13 th of February 1544 — 
I, the Prince — by command of His Highness, Juan de 
Samano; signed by the Bishop of Cuenca and the licen- 
tiates Gutierrez Velasquez ; Gregorio Lopez y Salmeron. 

Royal Ordinances 441 

The Prince. Venerable and devout Father, Fray 
Bartholomew de Las Casas, bishop-elect confirmed to the 
province of Chiapa; I saw your letter of the 21st ult. 
and the one you wrote to Juan de Samano, his Majesty's 
secretary, and the cedula you ask for, authorizing the 
expenses of the forty friars who are going to Honduras, 
goes with this. About the two hundred and fifty ducats 
which I ordered to be given you by the officials of this 
chamber, seeing that there is no money wherewith to 
pay them, I have ordered them to be paid on account, 
and that they should pay them to you, as you will have 
understood when you receive this, and thus they will 
settle with you in full. 

I have written to the Franciscan Provincial of the 
Province of Castile, that ten priests are going to the 
Indies instead of the twelve that I asked for, as you 
told me that two of them are already in that city, of 
which I am glad. The others who come will be provided 
with their passage and stores according to the cedula you 

Pertaining to your consecration, in another document 
which accompanies this, I am sending to give notice of 
the arrival of your bulls, charging you to arrange at 
once for your consecration. I therefore beg you to do 
this and to let me know how it was celebrated. Val- 
ladolid 1st day of April 1544. I, the Prince: counter- 
signed by Samano, signed by the bishop of Cuenca, 
Velasquez, Gregorio Lopez y Salmeron. 

Don Carlos and Dona Juana etc. To you alcaldes 
and others and to our judges of the provinces of Chi- 
apa, Yucatan, Cozumel and to all Aldermen, Judges, 
lawyers, gentlemen, esquires, officials and to all loyal 
subjects in every city, town, and village which lie within 
the boundaries assigned by our President and the audi- 

442 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

tors of our royal Council in New Spain to the bishopric 
of the city of Ciudad Real of this province of Chiapa, 
and to whatsoever other persons may be charged with 
the administration of the churches in the said cities, 
towns, and villages lying within the said boundaries 
and to whom this our letter may concern, health and 
grace. You well know or should know that we have 
presented to our very Holy Father, the Reverend Father 
in Christ, Fray Bartholomew de las Casas of the Dominican 
Order, for the bishopric of the said city of Ciudad Real 
in the province of Chiapa, to whom His Holiness, in 
virtue of our presentation, conveyed the said church and 
bishopric; and he ordered to be given and did give his 
bull for it, presenting it to us and begging us to grant 
our execution of the letter so that, in conformity with 
the said bulls, he would be given possession of the said 
bishopric and might receive its rents and income, to 
enable him to appoint his vicars and other officials of 
the said bishopric and that we might dispose as we saw 
fit. He sent the said bulls to be shown to our Council of 
the Indies and after they had seen them, we agreed that 
in the meantime or until we or our sovereign successors 
enlarge or diminish the boundaries of the said bishopric, 
the said Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas should preserve 
the boundaries assigned by the said President and audi- 
tors to the said bishopric of Chiapa; and that the tithes 
and other things which belong to him as bishop should 
be paid him; and that we should send this, our letter 
to you; and we approved. For that reason we order 
all and each one of you, who see the said bulls, which 
will be presented by the said Reverend Fray Bartolomew 
de Las Casas, conformably with their tenor and form 
to give or have given to him, or to whomever he author- 
ises, the possession of the church and bishopric of the 
said city of Ciudad Real of the province of Chiapa, that 

Royal Ordinances 443 

he may hold it within the boundaries the said President 
and auditors have marked out. Meanwhile, and until we 
or the kings our successors enlarge or diminish the said 
boundaries as before stated, you shall hold him as your 
bishop and prelate, giving him the proceeds and in- 
comes, tithes and revenues, and all things pertaining to 
him as bishop of that diocese. And you shall allow him 
to perform his pastoral duties and exercise his episcopal 
jurisdiction in person or through his officials or vicars, in 
whatever manner and in whatever form may be right- 
fully used according to the said bulls, and as the laws of 
our kingdom sanction ; and in all things and cases belong- 
ing to ecclesiastical jurisdiction, you shall give him all help 
and assistance. And should he ask the aid of the secular 
arm, you will grant it in conformity with the law, and 
each one and all shall not fail him in any way, under 
penalty of our displeasure and of five hundred thousand 
maravedis, forfeit to our exchequer. Dated in the town 
of Valladolid 7th of March 1544 — I, the Prince; legal- 
ised by Samano, signed by the Bishop of Cuenca, 
Gutierrez Velasquez, Gregorio Lopez y Salmeron. 

The Prince. Our officials in the province of Higueras 
and Cape of Honduras : know ye that on account of the 
good reports and information of the character and life of 
Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas of the Dominican Order, 
the Emperor King, my sovereign, has presented him to 
His Holiness as bishop of the province of Chiapa in place 
of Fray Juan de Arteaga, deceased, former bishop of the 
said diocese. As the said bishop has explained to me 
that in order to go to reside in the said diocese, he will 
be obliged to provide himself in the said province with 
a few things for his voyage, he has begged me to order 
you to lend him from your funds the sum of two hund- 
red ducats, or what I am pleased to give; and I ap- 

444 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

prove. I have therefore ordered in one of my documents, 
that five hundred thousand maravedis in excess of the 
fourth part of the tithes of the said bishopric, are to be 
yearly given from our purse. That he may have suffi- 
cient to maintain himself better, I command that out 
of whatever maravedis are in your care, our treasurer 
shall give and pay to the said Fray Bartholomew de Las 
Casas, or to his authorised representative, the said two 
hundred ducats, amounting to seventy-five thousand 
maravedis, and shall note it on the back of the said 
document above mentioned; as you pay it on account 
and in part payment of the said five hundred thousand 
maravedis that we give him in this way each year, we 
have ordered that these and other maravedis, which in 
these countries are to be given him, shall be deducted 
from the five hundred thousand maravedis. You will 
take his receipt or that of his authorised representative 
to show that the said two hundred "ducats" have been 
received on account. Dated in Valladolid, thirteenth 
day of February 1544, — I, the Prince, countersigned 
by Samano — signed by the bishop of Cuenca, and Gre. 
Velasquez, Gregorio Lopez y Salmeron. 

The Prince. Our officials in the province of Guate- 
mala, or any other persons who may have been ap- 
pointed to collect the tithes of the Bishop of Chiapa, 
during the vacant bishopric. Know ye that the Emperor 
King, my sovereign, because of the good reports he had 
of the character and merits of the Rev. Father in Christ, 
Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas of the Dominican Order, 
presented him to the Holy Father as bishop of the said 
diocese of the city of Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa, 
in place of the licentiate Rev. Juan de Arteaga, former 
bishop, deceased. The said bishop has begged me, in 
order to assist him in his many expenses until he starts 

Royal Ordinances 445 

to the said bishopric and to pay the expenses of his 
bulls, to graciously give him the tithes belonging to the 
church, that have accumulated since the decease of the 
said Rev. Juan de Arteaga, should I so wish, and I, 
agreeing to the above and to help him, do approve. 
I therefore command you to help and assist the said 
bishop or his authorised representatives with any tithes 
you may have collected or that remain in the said bishop- 
ric of Chiapa belonging to the church, from the day the 
said predecessor died until the day when he will enter 
and enjoy the five hundred thousand maravedis which 
we order to be given him. Dated in Valladolid thir- 
teenth day of February 1544 — I the Prince — by com- 
mand of His Highness, Juan de Samano. 

The Prince. Forasmuch as the Reverend Father 
in Christ, Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, bishop-elect 
of the city of Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa has 
informed me that it may happen that in the Cathedral 
of your said bishopric, there may not be more than one or 
two incumbents, presented by us and installed by you in 
the dignities, canonries, and prebends of the diocese, and, 
that not being more numerous, they must divide amongst 
them all that pertains to the capitula mensa and pro- 
motes the service of God our Lord and increases the divine 
cult in the said church. Should this be the case, the 
persons who were installed and were present should take 
what was required for its establishment, and out of the 
remainder competent salaries should be given to some 
of the priests who serve in the said church so long as there 
are no more beneficiaries, as we desire that the a,bove 
mentioned may be corrected. We order and charge 
by these presents that, when it happens that in the said 
church there are not at least four incumbents in residence, 
you will appoint up to the said number to fill the vacant 

446 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

places, and priests who lead exemplary lives and of the 
necessary abilities to serve in the said church, as its 
canons and priests should ; you will give them a sufficient 
salary from the funds that belong to the Order of the 
Chapter; first paying those who reside there and are 
ordained as the foundation statutes provide. And what 
may be left over from this and from the said salaries, 
which you will order to be paid from the said funds, you 
will order to be divided among all those installed and 
named by you, according to what is due to each. But 
should it happen that four incumbents or more than 
are entitled to, reside in the said church, let them have 
from the funds of the said Order of the Chapter, ac- 
cording to the foundation. And you will endeavour to 
hold them to this and will report to our Council for the 
Indies by the first ships sailing, all particulars respecting 
the persons appointed, with their salaries as before men- 
tioned, and their capabilities, so that we may judge what 
will be most useful to the service of God our Lord, and 
to Holy Church. 

And take care to enlighten us when the funds increase, 
that we may appoint more persons for the service of the 
said church. And be careful that the salaries you have to 
fix, do not exceed the usual amount allowed in like cases. 
Dated in the town of Valladolid, thirteenth day of Febru- 
ary 1544. I, the Prince, by command of His Highness, 
Juan de Samano, signed by the Bishop of Cuenca, by the 
licentiate Gre. Velasquez, Gregorio Lopez y Salmeron. 

The Prince. Our officials in New Spain; you already 
know how, on account of the good reports we have had 
of the character and merits of the Reverend Father, Fray 
Bartholomew de Las Casas, we presented him to the 
bishopric of the province of Chiapa in the place of Don 
Juan de Arteaga the late bishop ; and as his bulls have 

Royal Ordinances 447 

been sent and their delivery cost eighty-eight thousand, 
nine hundred and twenty-five maravedis, which amount 
must be paid out of the five hundred thousand marave- 
dis which we ordered in another document to be given 
to him yearly in that country, and because our officials 
of India House, who reside in the city of Seville, have 
by our order paid eighty-eight thousand nine hundred 
and twenty-five maravedis, I ordered them to send you 
this my cedula in order that you might repay it. I there- 
fore command you that of the five hundred thousand 
maravedis which the said Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas 
receives from us in that country, the two first years in 
succession, you will collect the said eighty-eight thou- 
sand nine hundred and twenty-five maravedis which 
you will send to the aforesaid officials at Seville, that 
we may be repaid therefrom. 

Dated, in Valladolid ist of April 1544, I, the Prince, 
countersigned by Samano, signed by the bishop of Cuenca, 
Velasquez, Gregorio Lopez y Salmeron. 

The Prince. Counsellors, judges, lawyers, gentle- 
men, esquires, officials, and all royal subjects of the city 
of Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa; know ye that 
the Emperor King, my sovereign, on account of the 
good reports he had of the character, life, and habits of 
the Reverend Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, has pre- 
sented him to this bishopric. Because we hope our 
Lord will be well served by him, we have ordered him to 
start without waiting for his bulls and we have provided 
him with what we thought necessary. I charge and 
command you to honour him and treat him justly, and 
to ask his advice in whatever matters may occur and in 
accordance with the service of God our Lord and the 
good government of this city, for I trust that by his 
good works and example and the great zeal he shows for 

44 8 Bartholomew de Las Casas 

the service of God and for His Majesty, he will counsel and 
guide you in whatever may contribute to the best results. 
Valladolid, 23rd of February, etc. 

The Prince. Venerable dean and chapter of the 
Cathedral of the bishopric of Chiapa: know ye that the 
Emperor King, my sovereign, because of the good report 
he had of the character, life, and habits of Fray Barthol- 
omew de Las Casas, has presented him to this bishopric; 
and because we hope that our Lord will be well served 
by his mission and for the benefit of the Holy Church, 
we have ordered him to start without waiting for his 
bulls to be granted to him, and we have ordered what 
provision we thought necessary. I charge and com- 
mand you to honour him and to treat him with respect 
and to take his advice in everything necessary for the 
government of the church during the time he is awaiting 
consecration, because I hope that with his wise teach- 
ings, good example, and the zeal he shows in the service 
of God and His Majesty, he will advise and direct what 
is most advantageous to the best results. 

Valladolid 23rd of February 1544, Idem, etc. 

The Prince. Presidents and Auditors of Our Au- 
diencia and Royal Chancellery of the Confines: know 
ye that the Emperor King, my sovereign, on account of 
the good reports he had of the character, life, and habits 
of the Reverend Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, has 
presented him to the bishopric of the city of Ciudad 
Real of the plains of Chiapa. With a view to the good 
results we hope he will achieve in instructing and con- 
verting the natives of his diocese, we have commanded 
him to depart without waiting for his bulls. Being the 
man he is and having had so much experience in the 
affairs of those parts, we have entrusted to him to let us 
know what is happening over there, and what is neces- 

Royal Ordinances 449 

sary for the service of God our Lord in that country and 
among its natives. Therefore I charge and command 
you that whenever the said bishop has anything to relate 
to you you will listen and endeavour to help him in the 
service of God, your Father and ours. And in whatever 
befalls him, you will help and favour and honour him, 
according as his dignity demands. 

Valladolid, 13th of February 1544 — I, the Prince — by 
command of His Highness Juan de Samano, signed by 
the Bishop of Cuenca and the licentiate Gutierrez Velas- 
quez, Gregorio Lopez y Salmeron. 

The Prince. President and judges of our Council and 
of Our Royal Chancellery of the Confines ; know ye that 
the Emperor King, my sovereign, presented the bishopric 
of the city of Ciudad Real of the plains of Chiapa to the 
licentiate Arteaga, and His Holiness, in response to the 
said representation, conferred it upon him. After his 
death, His Majesty, presented the said bishopric to 
Fray Bartholomew de Las Casas, whom we have com- 
manded to depart without waiting for his bulls, and to 
fulfil the good we hope he will accomplish among the 
natives of the said bishopric. And that he may know 
the limits of the said bishopric, dividing it from the 
bishoprics of Guatemala, Honduras, Tlascala, and Guas- 
caco, I command that upon his arrival there, you show 
him the limits to which the said bishopric of Chiapa ex- 
tends. Bearing in mind how the said Fray Bartholomew 
de Las Casas has served and will serve us, and the good 
he can do in the conversion of the natives in the said 
bishopric, the boundaries which will be pointed out to 
him must be quite distinct from the other bishoprics of 
the country, for as long as it is our wish — Dated in the 
town of Valladolid 13th day of February 1544 — I, the 
Prince, etc. 


45° Bartholomew de Las Casas 

The Prince. President and judges of our Audiencia 
and Royal Chancery of the Confines. Fray Bartholo- 
mew de Las Casas, bishop-elect of the city of Ciudad 
Real of the plains of Chiapa, has informed me, and we 
all well know, that he and the other priests of his Order 
have worked hard to bring peace to the provinces of 
Teculatlan, Lacandon, and others that were engaged in 
warfare; these provinces are situated within the limits 
of the bishopric and he beseeches me, since he and the 
said priests have understood and are endeavouring to 
bring peace to the said provinces, to be good enough to 
order that they shall be included within the limits of 
his diocese; thus included, he would work with more love 
and zeal than any former prelate to convert the natives 
to a knowledge of the Holy Catholic Faith, according 
to our wishes. Our Council of the Indies having con- 
sidered this, it was agreed that I should send you this 
my cedula, and as I approved, I command you to see to 
the above. Should the said provinces of Teculatlan and 
Lacandon be outside the limits of the said diocese of 
Chiapa, you will arrange that the said Fray Bartholomew 
de Las Casas has them under his charge as prelate, until 
His Holiness, upon our presentation, appoints a prelate 
over the said provinces. Let the said bishop-elect have 
charge of the spiritual affairs in those provinces and as 
prelate take a fourth part of the tithes which belong to 
him in the said provinces ; the other three quarters shall 
be distributed among the ecclesiastical ministries al- 
ready in existence in the said provinces and in the repairs 
and the decorations of the churches of them. Dated in 
Valladolid thirteenth day of February 1544 — I, the 
Prince, etc. 


Acevedo, Pedro Orozco de, 

Adrian VI., Pope, 304 
Adrian of Utrecht, Cardinal, 

75, I1 5, J 33; overcomes 

opposition to Las Casas, 151; 

becomes Pope, 174. See 

Adrian VI. 
Adrianico, 49 
Aguilar del Campo, Marquis 

de, 132 
Alberca, Fray Diego de, goes 

to Spain with Las Casas, 67 
Alcala, University of, opinion 

on Democrates II., 286 
Alcohol, effect of, on Indians, 

Alexander VI., Pope, grant of 

land to Spain, 2 1 ; condition 

on which granted, 125; Bull 

of, 243, 258, 278, 290 
Alfinger, Ambrose, 383 
Alfinger, Heinrich, receives 

concession of Venezuela, 3 83 ; 

the cruelty of, and his 

companions, 384 et seq. 
Almagro, Diego de, 181 et seq., 


Alonso, Don, treacherous treat- 
ment of, 377 

Alvarado, Pedro de, 199; cruel- 
ty of, 346, 351 ; death of, 357 

America, History of, Robert- 
son's, quoted, 99 

American Indians, Las Casas 
first man to defend, v., char- 
acter of, 18 ff. 

Ampudia, Juan de, 415 ff. 

Anacaona, treatment of, 324, 

Andalusia, slaves in, xv. 
Angleria, Pedro Martyr de, 

Angulo, Fray Pedro de, 191, 

252; accompanies Las Casas 

to Peru, 183; named prior, 

Antonio, Fray, see Montesinos 
Apologia of Democrates II., 286 
Arana, Domingo de, 276 
Archbishop of Seville, see 

Arias, Pedro, 109 
Arimao River, 51 
Aristotle, quoted, 234 
Arteaga, Fray Juan de, 443, 


Assumption, feast of the, 63 

Atabaliba,treatment and death 
of, 396 ff. 

Audiencia, 166; Las Casas ac- 
cuses the, 92 ; Ocampo places 
responsibility for disobeying 
royal commands upon the, 
155 ; Las Casas resolves to go 
before the, 155; Las Casas 
protests to, 158; Sebastian 
de Fuenleal President of the, 
179; approve Las Casas 's 
scheme for converting In- 
dians, 193; evade Nitevas 
Leyes, 234; letter to India 
council concerning Maldon- 
ado, 257; reproved by Em- 
peror, 257; send auditor to 
Ciudad Real, 259 

Audiencia of the Confines, 269; 
memorial to, by Las Casas, 


45 2 


Audiencia etc. — Continued 
254 ff.; restored to Gracias 
a Dios, 304 

Audiencia of Guatemala, or- 
dinance to, 220 

Auditors of Hispaniola, letter 
from, to Prince Philip, 177 

Authorities referred to, xxxi. 

Avila, Bishop of, councillor 
to Ximenez, 78 

Avila, Pedro Arias, 113 


Badajoz, Bishop of, 141 et seq. 

Balboa, Vasco Nunez de, 394 

Baracaldo, George de, 86 

Barbastro, Luis Cancer de, 
see Cancer 

Barcelona, Charles V. removes 
court from, 150 

Bautiste, Fray Juan, 308 

Bayamo, effect of Las Casas's 
presence in, 44; surprise at, 

Behicio, King of Xaragua, 324 

Behique, Indian title for Las 
Casas, 44, 47 

Benevente, Toribio de, see 

Benevente, Count of, 76 

Berlanga, villagers of, flock to 
emigrate with Las Casas, 117 

Bernardo, Fray, begins crusade 
against slavery in Cuba, 65 ; 
starts with Las Casas to 
Spain, 67; death of, 68 

Berrio, the Italian, betrays 
Las Casas, 116 

Betanzos, Fray Domingo de, 
175/7.; persuades Las Casas 
to enter Dominican Order, 
175; resigns as Bishop of 
Guatemala, 188 

Bisancio, Dean of, succeeds as 
Grand Chancellor, no 

Bobadilla, Francisco de, ap- 
pointed Governor of His- 
paniola, 6, 29; recalled to 
Spain, 9; his treatment of 
Columbus, 29; removed from 
office, 30; inquiry into ad- 

ministration of, 33 ; death of, 

Bogota, the torturing of, 403 

Boriquen, see Puerto Rico 

Bressa, Governor, transfers 
slave-trade monopoly, 106 

Brevissima Relacion de la 
Destruycion de las Indias, 
cited, 208 ff.; date of writing, 
etc., 208; translation of, 
314; printing of, 414 

Buil, Father, sent to instruct 
Indians, 22 

B ull of Alexander VI. ,243, 258, 
278, 290; conditions upon 
which granted, 125 

Bull of Paul III., arrival of, in 
America, 198; effect upon 
treatment of natives, 203; 
text of, 426 et seq.; trans- 
lation of, 42 7 et seq. 

Burgos, Bishop of, 81, 124, 
126, 136, 138, 139, 171; large 
holder of encomienda prop- 
erties, xix. ; character of, xx. ; 
in favour of encomienda sys- 
tem, 68; a powerful oppo- 
nent of Las Casas, 69; warn- 
ed against Las Casas, 7 1 ; 
reception of Las Casas by, 7 2 , 
73 ; loses slaves by annulment 
of encomiendas, 84; opposes 
Las Casas's plan for colonisa- 
tion, 107, 108; falls ill, 109; 
once more omnipotent, no; 
presides over India Council, 
in; unmoved by outrages 
against Indians, 115; bribes 
Berrio, 116; vexed by re- 
quests for further momen- 
tary concessions, 118; anger 
at speech of theologians, 128; 
creates delays, 133; desire 
for vengeance upon Las 
Casas, 135; dead, 182 

Burgos, Juan Antolines, cited, 

Burgos, Laws of, see Laws 

Cadiz, Bay of, 22 



Calatrava, Order of, 9 

Cali, province of, devastation 

of, 408 
Camacho, 49 
Camaguey, Narvaez ordered 

to, 44 ; expedition into, 456 ff . 
Campeche, Las Casas reaches, 

Canary Islands, wreck on the, 


Cancer, Fray Luis, starts with 
Las Casas for Peru, 188, 189; 
envoy to Quiche, 195; death 
of, 195, note; reception in 
Quiche, 196; hospitably re- 
ceived by Don Juan, 197; 
friendly treatment through- 
out country, 197,198; chosen 
to accompany Las Casas to 
Spain, 203 ; returns to Guate- 
mala, 204; assists Las Casas 
in San Domingo, 275 

Cannibalism amongst Indians, 

23. 2 4 
Caonab6, King of Maguana, 


Caonao, camp at, 48 

Carahale, 49 

Carbajal, Dr., confers with 
Cardinal Ximenez, 78 

Carranza, see Miranda 

Cartagena, Bishop of, 312 

Cartagena, province of, cruel- 
ties in the, 373 

Casa de Contracion, little kind- 
ness towards the Indian in 
the, 227 

Casaharta, see Carahale 

Casillas, Fray Tomas, 240; 
effect of his sermons, 235; 
appointed confessor by Las 
Casas, 276; presented for 
successor to Las Casas, 278 

Castro, Archdeacon Alvaro de, 

Cathay, 29 

Cepedo, Fray Gabriel, cited, 

Cerrato, Licentiate, urges Las 
Casas to return to Hispani- 
ola, 185; sends Las Casas to 
pacify the cacique Enrique, 

186; gratitude to Las Casas, 
187; supports Las Casas 
in connection with Nuevas 
Leyes, 234 
Champoton, 240 
Chancellor Grand, see Salvage 
Charles V., 203, 300, 304, 412 ; 
arrival in Spain, 93, 94; 
dismisses Cardinal Ximenez, 
94; character of, 95; learns 
to speak Spanish, 96 ; favour- 
able to Las Casas, 97; takes 
formal possession of the 
kingdom at Aragon, 108; 
inquires for Las Casas, 109; 
visits principality of Cata- 
lufia, 118; and formally en- 
ters Barcelona, 118; loses 
interest, for the time, in Las 
Casas, 119; confirms grants 
and privileges to Las Casas, 
138; ceremonial at the court 
of, 1 43 ; hears debate between 
Las Casas and Quevedo, 145 ; 
moves court to Corufla, 150; 
signs Nuevas Leyes, 208; 
appoints Las Casas Bishop 
of Cuzco, 211; when refused 
gives him diocese of Chiapa, 
212; abrogates the New 
Laws, 269; authorises the 
printing of Democrates II., 
286 ; threatened by LasCasas, 
302; pension to Las Casas, 


Chiapa, Bishop of, see Las 

Chievres, see Croy 

Chiribichi, massacre at, 154 

Cisneros, Cardinal Ximenez 
de, see Ximenez 

Ciudad Real, events in, 240 ff.; 
Confesionario written in, 
242; rebellion against Las 
Casas in, 244; open insur- 
rection against Las Casas 
in, 245; rioting in, 246; 
reaction of public sentiment 
in, 247; friars resolve to 
leave, 248; menacing de- 
monstrations as friars de- 
part, 249; Las Casas returns 



Ciudad Real— Continued 

to, 2 5 2 ; auditor sent to, 259; 
Las Casas's house attacked, 
260; citizens plan to prevent 
entrance of Las Casas, 261; 
Las Casas arrives and en- 
ters, 262,264; earthquake at, 
263; violence at, 266; Rogel, 
the auditor, arrives at, 269; 
Las Casas leaves, 270; royal 
ordinance to subjects in, 447 

Coban, success of Las Casas 
with natives of, 199 

Cobo, Pedro, 416 

Cobos, Francisco de los, 111, 
128; appointed judge con- 
cerning Nuevas Leyes, 206; 
brings appointment to bish- 
opric to Las Casas, 211 

Cocubanama, see Cocubano 

Cocubano, cacique, 35 

Collantes, Diego, 228 

Colonising, Las Casas's plans 
for, 112 etseq. 

Columbus, Christopher, 8; sec- 
ond voyage, 6 ; succeeded as 
Governor by Bobadilla, 6; 
first landing, 12, 17; birth 
and education, 12; character 
of, 13, 14; troubles of, 14, 
15; reception by natives, 
18, 19; first report of, to 
Queen, 23 ; schemes for 
slave-trading, 23, 24; levies 
tribute from Indians, 25; 
asks privilege of using In- 
dian labour, 27; succeeded 
by Bobadilla, 29; authorised 
to deport criminals, 56 

Columbus, Diego, 71, 158; un- 
dertakes conquest of Cuba, 
42; disagreement with Las 
Casas, 148, 149 

Commission appointed to en- 
force New Laws, 82; sails 
for Hispaniola, 87; recalled 
by Bishop of Burgos, 111; 
see Jeronymites 

Conchillos, Lope, holder of 
encomienda properties, xix. 
ff.; opposed to Las Casas, 
69 ; Las Casas warned against 

7 1 ; loses slaves by annul- 
ment of encomiendas, 84 

Co nfesionario, writing of, 242; 
an epitome of, 278; de- 
fended by Carranza, 301 

Conquest of Mexico, Las Casas's 
report of cruelties during, 
341 et seq. 

Consulta, the, 156 ff. 

Cordoba, Fray Pedro de, 53, 
162 ; first sermon in colonies, 
41; supports Montesinos, 
54; assists in formulating 
Laws of Burgos, 58; charac- 
ter of, 59; sends Montesinos 
with Las Casas to Spain, 68; 
letter to Las Casas, 113, 114 

Cordoba, Bishop of, assists 
in consecration of Las Casas, 

Corodele, Antonio, 124 

Corodele, Luis, 124 

Corpus Domini, feast of, 220 

Cortes, Hernando, 10, 345; 
cited, 394 

Coruna, Count of, 117 

Coruna, Court moved to, 150; 
King signs land grant at, 

Council of Castile, 286 

Court of Charles V., cere- 
monial at, 143 

Court intriguers, 137 

Court preachers, Las Casas 
seeks aid from, 123; power 
of, 125; address India coun- 
cil, 126 ff.; threaten the 
Council, 129; disagreement 
with Las Casas, 130, 131; 
Las Casas severs connection 
with, 132 

Croy, William de, friendly to 
Las Casas, 95; his part in 
ceremonial at court, 143 ff.; 
see Flemings 

Cuba, island of, 52, 62, 63, 
86; description of natives 
by Columbus, 19; conquest 
of, 43 ; Las Casas goes to, 
52; and leaves, 64; Renteria 
returns to 64; Dominican 
friars well received in, 65; 



Cuba — Continued 

number of slaves needed in, 
101; Las Casas accused of 
starting "scandals" in, 137; 
cruelties to natives of, 329 ff. 

Cubagua, island of, 152; Span- 
iards there interfere with 
Las Casas and his colony, 

163 ff- 

Cuellas, Cristobal de, daughter 
of, promised bride of Velas- 
quez, 43 

Cuenca, Bishop of, 221 

Cueyba, 45, 46 

Cumana, 163; Dominicans ask 
grant of restricted land at, 
114; convents at, 152; mas- 
sacre at, 167 ff. 


Darien, Bishop of, arrival at 
Barcelona, 140; a new op- 
ponent to Las Casas, 140; 
possibly in pay of Diego 
Velasquez, 140; meeting with 
Las Casas, 140, 141; anger 
at Las Casas, 142; debate 
with Las Casas, 144, 145, 
146; converted to the cause 
of Las Casas, 147; death of 

Davila, Pedro Arias, cruelties 
of, 332 et seq. 

Daytama, Prince, the pursuit 
of, 404 

De la Ubertad de los Indios que 
han sido reducidos a la 
esclavitud, 295 

Democrates, the, of Sepulveda, 

Democrates II., the, of Sepul- 
veda, 286 ff. 

Desiruycion de las Indias, 8 

De Unico modo vocationis, 190 

Deza, Fray Diego de, Arch- 
bishop of Seville, sides with 
Las Casas against slavery, 

Dionisio, Fray, 124 

Dogs, training of, to kill In- 
dians, 410 

Domingo, Fray, see Medinilla 
Dominicans, vii., 121; arrival 
in Hispaniola of friars and 
Cordoba, 40; their reception, 
40; first sermon, 41; Las 
Casas much impressed and 
influenced by, 41; numbers 
increased, 53; send Fray 
Antonio to Spain to defend 
his preachings, 57 ; Las Casas 
once refused sacraments by 
a friar of the, 60 ; four monks 
sent to Cuba, 65; those in 
Hispaniola in need of funds, 
68 ; fear for life of Las Casas 
and offer him shelter, 90; 
address letter to King and 
Cardinal in defence of Las 
Casas, 93 ; those in Hispani- 
ola ignorant of events at 
court, 113; seek grant of land 
at Cumana, 114; convents 
founded on the Pearl Coast, 
152; Las Casas joins the, 
175; first provincial chapter 
held in Hispaniola, 182; 
send friars to Peru with 
Las Casas, 187; convent 
founded in Santiago de los 
Caballeros, 188; approve 
scheme of Las Casas for 
converting Indians, 193; re- 
, ception of Las Casas in 
Santo Domingo by the, 232; 
atCiudad Real remains faith- 
ful to Las Casas, 244; Las 
Casas transfers property to, 
271; chapter at Chiapa com- 
mended by Prince Philip, 
277; see Order of St. Do- 
Don Juan, 197, 200 


Encomiendas, 90, 131; large 
holders of, xix. ; germ of the, 
2 5 ; appeal to King concern- 
ing, 57; Bishop of Burgos 
and Conchillos in favour 
of, 68; laws for the sup- 
pression of, 79; attack on 

45 6 


E t i comiendas — Continued 

the attempted suppression 
of, 82 ; those held by Council 
of the Indies annulled, 83 ; 
owners fear end of system 
is near, 92 ; condemned by 
court preachers, 130; Nuevas 
Leyes and the, 207; number 
of, reduced, 300 

English colonies compared with 
Spanish, viii. ff. 

Enrique, Cacique, long-stand- 
ing rebellion, 178; pacifica- 
tion of, by Las Casas, 186 

Erasmus, cited, 285 

Espinall, Fray Alonso de, 10; 
bears complaint to King, 57 

Espinosa, Captain, 109 

Eviguier, George, 383 


Fabie, cited, 3, 4, 107, 255, 

257. 258, 304, 307, 432 
Ferdinand, King, 69, 304; cold 
temperament of , 14 ; horrified 
by story of Las Casas, 57; 
orders commission to invest- 
igate outrages in colonies, 
57; grants audience to Las 
Casas, 70; death of, 74 
Fernando, Don, the Infante, 2 
Ferrer, Fray Vincente, 266 
Figueroa, Luis de, 82 
Figueroa, Rodrigo, 113 
Flanders, Charles V. in, 74 
Flemings, the, 101, 122, 132, 
158, 174; influence of, on 
Charles V., 93; Ximenez ad- 
vises Charles not to bring, 
to Spain, 93 ; odious to Span- 
iards, 95; friendship with, 
costs Las Casas dear, 96; 
Flemish colony in Yucatan, 
97; Las Casas called Micer 
by, 109; death of Grand 
Chancellor, one of the, no; 
assist Las Casas, 115; dis- 
content of, 123; Las Casas 
high in favour with, 148; 
hatred against, 150 

Florida, discovery of, 389; 
cruelties in, 390 ff. 

Fonseca, Antonio de, challenges 
Las Casas of wrongly ac- 
cusing the Council, 134 

Franciscans, the, twelve friars 
accompany Ovando, 10; Las 
Casas makes retreat in mon- 
astery of, 64; Ximenez be- 
comes a monk of, 74; monks 
of, report to Ximenez on 
abuses of the Indians, 77; 
rivalries between, and the 
Dominicans, 80 ; opinions of, 
solicited by the Jeronymites, 
92 ; letter to King and 
Cardinal in defence of Las 
Casas, 93 ; letters given to Las 
Casas by French Franciscans, 
96; and the Knights of the 
Golden Spur, 121; of the 
court preachers, 124; Bishop 
Quevedo reproved by monk 
of, 143; Las Casas warmly 
supported by monk of, 146; 
cacique Enrique educated in 
convent of , 1 78 ; Fray Marcus 
de Nizza quoted concerning 
cruelties in Peru, 397 

Fuenleal, Don Sebastian, sent 
as President of the Audien- 
cia, 179; succeeded by Cer- 
rato, 185 

Fuenleal, Don Ramirez, trans- 
ferred from Mexico to bish- 
opric of Cuenca, 205 

Fuensanta, Marques de la, edi- 
tor of the Historia General 
and the Apologetica, xxiv. 


Galiano, Fray Nicola, sent to 

council of Ciudad Real by 

Las Casas, 264 
Galileo, 124 
Gama, Doctor de la, sent to 

Puerto Rico and Cuba, 113 
Gaona, Diego de, apostolic 

notary, 433 
Garceto, Fray Juan, hears news 

of Las Casas's coming, 162; 



G arcet o — Continued 

urges Las Casas to protest 
to Audiencia, 164; prays for 
right course to pursue, 165; 
not qualified to judge a 
question of policy, 166; 
relates to Las Casas his 
escape from death, 169 

Garcia, Diego, alguacil mayor, 

Garcia, Juan, death of, 367 

Gardens, Buen Retiro, Jerony- 
mite monks lodge at, 81 

Gattinara, Chancellor, 136; 
consents to plan of Las 
Casas, 122; impeachment of 
council secured through in- 
fluence of, 132; Las Casas 
dines with, 137; presents 
full report of proceedings to 
the King, 138 

Gaunt, John, xiv. 

Germans in Venezuela, 298 

Germany, 1 

Gold, large nugget of, found, 
31; lost at sea, 34 

Golden Spur, Knights of the, 
see Knights 

Gomera, Island of, Las Casas 
delayed at, 231 

Gonzalez, Gil, plans vengeance 
upon Spaniards, 153, success- 
ful treachery of, 154; death 

of, 157 

Governor, the, see Columbus, 
Christopher; Monte jo, van- 
do, Velasquez 

Gracias a Dios, Las Casas 
visits, 252; Audiencia of 
the confines restored to, 


Granada, held by Moors, 14; 
Queen Isabella's proclama- 
tion at, 28 

Granada, new kingdom of, 
discovery and naming of, 
402; invasion of, and cruel- 
ties practised in, 402 et seq. 

Grand Chancellor, see Bisan- 
cio, Salvage 

Grand Commander of Castile, 
member of the Council, 128 

Grand Inquisitor, see Adrian, 

Grand Khan, 13, 15, 29 

Grecian archipelago, Colum- 
bus's knowledge of, 12 

Grijalva, Juan de, left in 
command during Governor's 
absence, 43 ; obedient to 
the counsels of Las Casas, 
44; discovers New Spain, 

Guacanagari, King of Marien, 

3 2 3 

Guarionex, King of Magua, 321 

Guatemala, 265, 449; docu- 
ments discovered at , by Rem- 
esal, 180; Las Casas goes to, 
188; Las Casas ridiculed in, 
190; Las Casas leaves for 
Spain, 202 ; Pedro de Angulo, 
Prior of convent in, 203 ; in- 
vasion of, 352 et seq.; 
cruelties practised in, 352 et 

Guatemala, Audiencia of, Roy- 
al commands to, 220 

Guatemala, Bishop of, see 

Guillen, Viscount de Limoges, 
ancestor to Las Casas, 1 ; 
name runs through family, 2 

Gutierrez, Carlos, Fray Barto- 
lome de Las Casas, sus Tiem- 
pos y su Apostolado, xxxi.; 
cited, 426 

Guzman, Nufio de, cruelties of, 
in Panuco, 358 


Harrisse, Henry, Notes on 
Columbus, xx vi., xxxi. ; cited, 

Hatuey, address of, 329; death 

of, 330 

Hebrew coins, Salucchi, 7 

Helos, xiii. 

Henry of Portugal, Prince, 
promotes slave trade ex- 
pedition, xiv.; ideas upon 
negro slavery, xvi. 

Henry VIII. of England, 119 



Heralds, Royal College of, 3, 4 

Herrera, Antonio de, first to 
have access to MSS. of 
Hist. 6^w., xxiv. ; cited, xxix., 
102,257; quoted, 101; one 
of the auditors, 257 

Higueras, Royal Ordinance to 
officials of, 443 

Higuey, description of cruel- 
ties practised in, 35, 325 

Higuanama, Queen of Higuey, 
death of, 325 

Hispaniola, 154, 175, 218, 219, 
328, 377, 378; father of Las 
Casas acquires interests in, 6 ; 
Bobadilla sent as Governor 
to, 6; Ovando reaches, 11; 
Columbus finds colony exter- 
minated, 22; leaves and re- 
turns to, 24; slaves sent to 
Spain from, 26; Queen Isa- 
bella orders slaves returned 
to, 28; Ovando's arrival at, of 
great importance, 31; nug- 
get of gold found in, 31 ; im- 
portation of negro slaves 
into, authorised, 32; arrival 
of fourth expedition of Co- 
lumbus, 34; arrival of Las 
Casas, 34; Dominicans in, 
40 ff.; Las Casas leaves, to 
join Velasquez, 43 ; residence 
of Las Casas, 5 1 ; Las Casas 
refused sacrament in, 60; 
Las Casas returns to, on 
way to Spain, 67 ; Dominican 
community of, in need of 
funds, 68 ; arrival of Jerony- 
mites in, 87; Las Casas re- 
turns to, 88; Ovando asks 
that no more slaves be sent 
to, 102; awakening of moral 
sense in people of, 104; Fig- 
ueroa sent to, 113; Domini- 
cans in, ignorant of events 
at court, 113 grant of land 
to monks in, 114; sale of 
royal haciendas in, 118; 
wheat grown in, 141; mines 
in, 152; Las Casas goes to, 
^SS ff-y Las Casas detained 

in, 157; slaves sent to, 157, 
158; Las Casas sails from, 
160; against his judgment 
Las Casas returns to, 164 ff.; 
Las Casas arriving at, hears 
of massacre at Cumana, 170; 
reception of Las Casas in, 
174; Cerrato succeeds as 
President of Audiencia at, 
185; Las Casas urged to 
return to, 185; Las Casas 
leaves, for Peru, 188; Las 
Casas wrecked at Santa 
Domingo, 232; reception of 
Las Casas in, 232; New 
Laws in, 232 ff. ; Domini- 
cans in, gain courage from 
presence of Las Casas, 234; 
discovery of, 314; massacre 
on, 318; kingdoms of, 321; 
outrages by Spaniards in, 
328; natives flee from, 329; 
slaves sent to, 389 

Hispaniola, Governor of, Boba- 
dilla succeeds Columbus as, 
6; complaints of Columbus 
against second, 9; Ovando 
endowed with power to judge 
predecessor, 9; Ovando suc- 
ceeds Bobadilla as, 9; see 
Bobadilla; see Columbus; 
see Ovando 

Historia Apologetica, beginning 
of work, xxiii.; originally 
part of Hist. Gen., xxiii.; 
first complete edition of, 
xxiv. ; a monument to Las 
Casas, xxv.; cited, 36, 177; 
quoted, 177; read to India 
Council, 289 

Historia de Chiapa, Remesal, 
cited, 176 

Historia de Ximenez, Bandier, 
cited, 77 

Historia de la Esclavitud, cited, 
xxix., 102 

Historia de la Fundas, xxix. 

Historia de la Province, etc., 

Historia de las Indias Occiden- 
tales, Herrera, quoted, 10 1 

Historia del Almirante, facts 



Historia del Almirante — Cont'd 
for Hist. Gen. drawn from, 

Historia General, material lost 
for the, xxiv.; Mexican edi- 
tion of, xxiv. ; first complete 
edition of, xxiv.; names of, 
persons who accompanied 
Columbus in second chapter 
of , 8 ; a diary of Las Casas's 
life, 8; speech of Las Casas 
in third part of, 146; grant 
of Charles V., 151; submis- 
sion of Enrique, 178; fourth 
book of, 180; will of Las 
Casas concerning, 308; cited, 
xxxiv., 3, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 
a i, 22, 23, 35, 52, 63, 85, 
107; quoted, 8, 99, 105 

Historia natural y moral de las 
Indias, 134 

History of America, xxx. 

History of Charles V., xxx. 

Holy Land, 1 

Honduras, 214, 222, 432, 449; 
Royal Ordinance to officials 

in, 443 
Honduras, Bishop of, 217 
Hraga, the point of, 169 

Ideal colony, the, vi.; descrip- 
tion of, 162 ff. 
Imago Mundi, Aliaco, cited, 13 
India Council, the, 7, 67, 123 ff., 
125; hostility of members 
to Las Casas, 67; Bishop of 
Burgos made President of, 
70; object to instructions 
drawn up by Zuazo, 87; 
appeal from decision cf 
royal commissioner to, 91; 
names of members of, in, 
120, 127, 128; Las Casas 
lays plans of colonisation 
before, 122; decision by 
Las Casas to exhort the 
members of, 126; appearance 
of court preachers discon- 
certs, 126; threatened by 
theologians, 129; consent to 

project of Las Casas, 133; 
offer of colonists to be laid 
before, 134; deliver to Chan- 
cellor a copy of the memorial 
meeting ,136; Las Casas pre- 
sents reply to accusations 
against himself to, 138; 
final settlement, 139; out- 
siders forced to withdraw, 
144; Cardinal tries to over- 
come opposition to Las 
Casas, 151; Cardinal Loaysa, 
president of, 205; letters 
written to, by Las Casas, 214, 
217, 257; denunciations of 
Confesionario laid before, 
279; Las Casas called from 
America to answer charges 
before, 279; records of the 
proceedings of, 283 ; satisfied 
by Las Casas's defence of 
Confesionario, 285; refuses 
permission to print Demo- 
crates II., 286; ordered to 
assemble in Valladolid, 288; 
sits at Valladolid, 295 ; efforts 
of Las Casas to obtain from, 
declaration freeing Indians, 
295; report of conduct of 
bishops in America laid 
before, 299; Las Casas again 
disproves charges before, 
300; cruelty toward Indians 
proved by witnesses before, 
3 88 
Indians, Las Casas first to 
defend liberty of, v. ; conver- 
sion of, vi., viii., xii., xvi., 
20 ff-> 39 ff-! character of, 
i8ff.; 41, 49, 60, 121, 279, 
302, 430 ff.; comparison 
of Spanish and English me- 
thods of dealing with, x. ff.; 
negroes imported to replace, 
xv. ff.; Las Casas a mono- 
maniac on the subject of, 
xxiii. ; tribute exacted from, 
25; effect of alcohol upon, 
1 64 ; massacre at Cumana by, 
167 #.; language of, 185, 189; 
cruelty practised against, see 
Brevissima Relacion, etc., 3 1 1 



Indians — Continued. 

et seq.; protector of the, see 
Las Casas; slavery of, see 

Indies, the, flora and fauna of, 
xxv.; discovery of, 17, 314; 
resources of, 291; inhabi- 
tants of, 314; descriptions 
of, 314; treatment of in- 
habitants by Spaniards, v. 
et seq., 315 ff. 

Inquisition, the, Dominicans 
the founders of, vii. 

Isabella, Queen, 207, 327; 
tricked into assenting to 
forced labour of Indians, xvi. ; 
attitude of, toward slavery, 
6, 23, 27 ff., 32; aid of, to 
Columbus, 14, 15; Ximenez 
confessor to, 74; deathof,32 7 

Isaiah, prophecy of, 14 

Italy, 1 

Jacomo, Fray, 365 

Jamaica, xxiii., 86, 316, 328, 
389; discovery of, 24 

Jeronymites, the, commission 
of, 67; arrival of, in Madrid, 
82 ; Las Casas appointed to 
confer with the generals of, 
82; instructions given to, 
83; the departure of, 83; 
further instructions to, 84; 
whereon Las Casas receives 
order from Cardinal-regent, 
85; pious fathers of, 86; 
objections made to the in- 
structions given, 86; Las 
Casas accuses, 87; avoid 
Las Casas, 87 ; carry out their 
mission independent from 
Las Casas, 88; conflicting 
instructions, 89; confused 
with complex problems, 89; 
refuse to listen to Las Casas 
90 ; annoyed at impeachment 
of royal functionaries, 92 ; 
complain against Las Casas 
to the Cardinal, 93 ; influence 
Cardinal against Las Casas, 

94; recalled from Indies by 
Bishop of Burgos, 1 1 1 ; letter 
to Las Casas of dissatis- 
faction with, 114; arrange 
for sale of royal haciendas 
in Hispaniola, 118 

Juan, Infante Don, 23 

Juanillo, 267 


Kingdoms of Hispaniola, the, 
321 et seq. 

King's Council, the, see India 
Council, 135 

Knights of the Golden Spur, 
120 ff., 151, 171; idea of, con- 
ceived by Las Casas, 120; 
dress of, 120 

Lacandon, province of, 450 
Ladrada, Fray Rodrigo de, 191 ; 
enlarges convent, 200; ac- 
companies cacique to un- 
known lands, 202; sails 
with Las Casas, 220, 240; 
an exhortation by, 294 
Lafuente, Father, of the uni- 
versity of Alcala, 124; speech 
of, to the India Council, 129; 
"Land of War," the, Las 
Casas visits, 190 ff.; Las 
Casas revisits, 252; Las 
Casas celebrates "pacific 
victory" in, 278 
Lares, Comendador de, see 

La Rabida wrecked, 10 
Las Casas, Bartholomew de, 
appreciation of, see Preface 
moral awakening of, xvi.; 
writings of, xxiii.; ancestry 
of, 1 ff. ; birth of, 2 ; early 
life of, 4; education of, 4; 
obtains degree of licentiate, 
4; as a slave-owner, 6; first 
voyage to America, 7, 8; 
nearly lost at sea, 10 ; landing 
in America, 11, 34; takes 
charge of father's property, 



Las Casas — Continued 

34; war against Cocuban6, 
description of, cited, 35, in- 
come of, 36; takes holy- 
orders, 41 ; ordination, his 
own description of it, 42 ; 
enters upon new duties of 
priest, 42; joins Velasquez 
in Cuba, 43; goes to Cam- 
aguey, 44; influence with 
Indians, 46, 49; receives 
recognition of his services, 
5 1 ; takes up active campaign 
against slavery, 58 ff.; sur- 
renders his slaves, 61; re- 
turns to Spain, 69; arrives 
at Plasencia, 69; promised 
audience with the King, 70; 
audience with King about 
slavery, 71; interview with 
Bishop of Burgos, 72 ff.; 
propitious interview with 
Ximenez, 78; frames new 
laws to protect the Indians, 
79; goes to Lupiano, 82; 
reception with commission 
in Madrid, 83; letter from 
Cardinal-regent to, 85; re- 
ceives title of Protector- 
General, 86; returns with 
commission to Hispaniola, 
87; arouses ill-feeling by his 
zeal, 90 ; returns to Spain, 93 ; 
gains favour of Grand Chan- 
cellor, 96; draws up plans 
to induce emigration to 
Hispaniola, 98; error con- 
cerning negro slavery, 99 
et seq.; temperament of, 103 ; 
falls ill, 108; goes to court 
at Zaragoza, 109; suffers 
reverse by death of the 
Grand Chancellor, no; fails 
to obtain grant of land for 
Dominicans, 114, 115; made 
Royal Chaplain, 115; first 
recruiting expedition of emi- 
grants, 116, 117; his emi- 
gration recruiting opposed 
by nobles, 117; delayed by 
death of Maximilian, 119; 
attempts to organise Knights 

of Golden Spur, 120 ff.; 
invokes aid of court preach- 
ers, 123 ff.; differs with 
court preachers, 130; ac- 
cuses India Council, 132 ; 
India Council consents to his 
projects, 132; controversy 
with Bishop of Darien, 140 
et seq.; converts Bishop of 
Darien to his cause, 147; 
disagreement with Diego 
Columbus, 148 ff.; receives 
grant of land from the King, 
151; sails for Puerto Rico, 
152; his authority not ac- 
knowledged in Puerto Rico, 
154; goes on to Hispaniola, 
I 55l protests to Audiencia, 
158; accepts company 
scheme of Audiencia, 159; 
sails to Puerto Rico, 160; de- 
serted by his colony, 160- 
161 ; makes overtures to the 
Indians, 162; against his 
judgment again returns to 
Hispaniola, 166; hears of 
massacre of colonists, 170; 
his saddest days, 174 ff.; 
joins Dominican Order, 176; 
seven years' study and writ- 
ing, 177; journey to Spain 
1530, 180; pacifies the caci- 
que Enrique, 180; his object 
in returning to Spain, 182; 
starts for Peru, 183 ; journey 
to Peru, 183, 184; recalled to 
Hispaniola, 185; returns to 
Nicaragua, 185; again starts 
for Peru, 187; converts the 
cacique Enrique to friend- 
ship for the Spaniards, 187; 
goes to Guatemala, 188; 
abandons journey, 188; chal- 
lenged to put theories in prac- 
tice, 190; writes De Unico 
modo vocationis, 1 90 ; success- 
ful missionary work, 190; 
visits Tuzulatlan, 197; per- 
suades Indians to start vil- 
lage, 199; takes Don Juan 
to Guatemala, 200; ordered 
to Spain to recruit more 



Las Casas — Continued 

clergy, 202; favourably re- 
ceived in Mexico on his way, 
203 ; detained in Spain 
(Nuevas Leyes), 204; finishes 
Brevissima Relacion de la 
Destruycion de la Indias, 208 ; 
refuses bishopric of Cuzco, 
211; consecrated , 213; ac- 
cepts bishopric of Chiapa, 
213; letter to India Council, 
214; enters into possession of 
episcopal revenues, 220; sails 
for Hispaniola with friars, 
220; letter of farewell to 
Philip II., 222; nearly 
wrecked, 232; reception at 
Santo Domingo, 232; de- 
nounced by colonists to 
Emperor, 233; consequent 
revival of enthusiasm, 234 ff.; 
voyage to Lazaro, 236; re- 
ception in his diocese, 237; 
journey to Ciudad Real, 238 
ff.; his severity as Bishop, 
242 ; threatened by colonists, 
2 43 ; false accusations against, 
244; open rebellion against 
his authority, 245; remains 
at duties in face of personal 
danger, 247; reaction in feel- 
ing towards, 248; leaves 
Ciudad Real and goes to 
Chiapa, 249 ; reception there, 
249; revisits "Land of War," 
252 ff.; unfavourable re- 
ception by the Audiencia, 
254; presents memorial to 
Audiencia, 254; writes to 
India Council, 257; learns 
of further rebellion against 
his authority at Ciudad Real, 
258; preparations to resist 
his entrance to Ciudad Real, 
260 ff.; arrival at Ciudad 
Real, 262 ff.; meeting with 
the Cabildo, 264 ff.; riotings 
against him at Ciudad Real, 
266 ff.; carried in procession 
by repentant Council, 268; 
leaves Ciudad Real for Mex- 
ico, 270; receives Auditor 

Rogel. 270; transfers his 
property, 271; his action 
disapproved by the bishops, 
271; antagonises the viceroy 
and auditors , 2 7 2 ; j ourney to , 
and arrival at Mexico, 272; 
sermon against the council, 
275; final arrangements be- 
fore leaving America, 275; 
sails for Spain for the last 
time, 276; number of voy- 
ages, 276; received kindly 
by Prince Philip at Aragon, 
277; arrival at Valladolid, 
277; resignation from diocese, 
278; called to explain doc- 
trine by India Council, 279; 
doctrine of, reduced to a 
formula, 279; his explana- 
tion (the Thirty Proposi- 
tions), 279 ff.; his defence 
satisfactory, 285; uses in- 
fluence to cause suppression 
of Sepulvedas Democrates 
II., 286; takes up contro- 
versy with Sepulveda, 287; 
refutation of Sepulveda's 
twelve objections, 289 ff.; 
reads Historia Apologetica 
to India Council, 289; takes 
up residence at college of 
San Gregorio, 294; writes 
his treatise on The Liberty 
of Enslaved Indians, 295; 
his opinion of rights of man, 
etc., 295 ff.; his arraignment 
of those in control of colonial 
government, 296 ff.; letter 
to Philip II. upon encomienda 
system, 300; letter to Car- 
ranza concerning perpetual 
encomienda system, 301 ff.; 
pensioned by Philip II., 
303; often at court, 303; 
provided with lodgings, etc., 
suitable to his rank by 
Philip II., 303; makes will 
at Madrid, 304; writes treat- 
ise in defence of Peruvians, 
304; last negotiation in Amer- 
ican interests, 304; death 
of, 305; last writings of, 



Las Casas — Continued 

305, 306; obsequies of, 307; 

his last resting place, 307; 

his will and testament, 308 
Las Casas, Guillen de, 2 
Las Palmas, Velasquez lands 

at, 43 
Laws, New, see New Laws 

(Nuevas Leyes) 
Laws of Burgos, the, origin of, 

58; read before the India 

Council, 79: submitted to 

court preachers, 130 
Laxao, Monsieur de, 112 et seq., 

132, 136 
Lazaro, port of, 236 
Leon, Juan Ponce de, 389 
Lerma, Garcia de, rule of, in 

Santa Marta, 370; at the 

Yuyapari River, 383; death 

of, 383 
Letter of Las Casas describing 

treatment of Indians, 415 

et seq. 
Letter to Philip II. from Las 

Casas, 222 
Letters to Carranza from Las 

Casas, 302 
Letters to India Council from 

Las Casas, 214, 217 
Levant, the, 12 
Leyes, Nuevas, see Nuevas 

Leyes (New Laws) 
Lili, province of, 418 ff. 
Llorente, cited, 7, 276, 284, 

286, 304 
Loaysa, Bishop, 213, 217 
Loaysa, Cardinal, consecrates 

Las Casas, 204 ff.; designates 

Las Casas for bishopric, 212 
Lopez, Gregorio, 225 ff. 
Lou vain, University of, 75, 95 
Lucaya Isles, 316 
Lumbreras, Pedro, 40 


Madrid, 80, 269; treatment of 
Jeronymites and Las Casas 
in, 82, 83; Charles V. absent 
from, when Las Casas ar- 

rives, 203; Las Casas makes 

will in, 304 
Magellan, meeting with Las 

Casas, 108 
Magua, description of, 321 
Maguana, description of, 323 
Maguana, St. Juan de la, 178; 

death of Bernardo at, 68 
Maici, province of, Velasquez 

lands in Cuba at, 43 
Mainland, cruelties on the, 332 

Maldonado, President, orders 
Las Casas ejected from 
Audiencia, 254; abuse of Las 
Casas, 254; Las Casas ac- 
cuses, 254 ff.; Indian slaves 
owned by, 256; Las Casas 
repeats accusations against, 

2 57 

Manuel, Don Juan, 132 

Maracapana, convent founded 
at, 152 ; Ojeda arrives at, 153 

Maraguey, Fray, 152, 154 

Margarite, Don Pedro, ap- 
pointed Captain-General of 
Hispaniola by Columbus, 25 

Maria, 162; denies plot against 
Spaniards, 167 

Marien, description of, 322 

Marmolejo, Maria Fernandez, 
ancestor of Las Casas, 3 

Marquez, Fray Domingo, cited , 

Marroquin, Don Francisco, 257 
Bishop of Guatemala, 188; 
urges Las Casas to come to 
Guatemala, 188; a master 
of Indian language, 189; 
in Mexico, 193; returns from 
Mexico, 199; summons Las 
Casas and Ladrada to Guate- 
mala, 202; deserts cause of 
Las Casas, 258 

Martin, Fray Pedro de, at- 
tacked defending house of 
Las Casas in Ciudad Real, 

Martyr, Peter, member of 
India Council, 128 

Mary Tudor, Queen of Eng- 
land, 301 



Massacre, at Matanzas, 50; of 

colonists, 167 ff. 
Matanzas, massacre at, 50 
Matiencio, Fray Tomas de, 

confessor to King Ferdinand, 

71; assists Las Casas, 71, 

Maximilian, Emperor, death 

of, 119 
Mazanedo, Fray Bernardino de, 

Mechoacan, Bishop of, 273 
Mechuacan, De Guzman in, 

359 ff- 
Medina, Fray Alonso de, 154 

Medina Celi, Duke of, supports 
cause of Columbus, 15 

Medinilla, Fray Domingo de, 
assists Las Casas in Ciudad 
Real, 246 

Medinilla, Luis de Torre, 258 

Mendoza, Cardinal, aids Colum- 
bus, 15 

Mendoza, Don Antonio de, 
meets Las Casas, 203 

Mendoza, Don Diego Hurtado 
de, receives announcement 
of Las Casas's resignation 
from bishopric, 278 

Mercedarian friars, opposed to 
severity of Las Casas, 242 

Mexican edition of Hist. Gen- 
eral, xxiv. 

Mexican synod, the, 273 et seq.; 
members of, 273 

Mexico, 182, 184, 269; con- 
dition of Indians in, better 
than in islands, xx.; Las 
Casas embarks for, 1 83 ; 
Casas and Ladrada in, 202; 
Las Casas summoned to 
Mexican synod, 270; Las 
Casas arrives in Mexico City, 

Mexico, Bishop of , 243,273,400 

Mexico, conquest of, see Con- 

Micer, 109; see Las Casas 

Miguel, Don, assists Las Casas 
in converting Indians, 202 

Miguel, Fray, see Salamanca 

Minaya, Fray Bernadino de, 

starts for Peru with Las 
Casas, 183 

Mining, hardships of, in His- 
paniola, 37 

Miranda, Carranza de, letter 
of Las Casas to, xxii.; in- 
fluence of, over Philip, 301; 
accompanies to England, 
301; letter of Las Casas to, 
302 ff. 

Mona, island of, Las Casas 
stops at, 160 

Monarquia Indiana, xxxi. 

Montejo, Francisco de, 238; 
cruelties of, in Yucatan, 
362, et seq. 

Montesinos, Fray Antonio de, 
60, 68, 94, 104; a man of 
unusual ability, 40; arrives 
at Hispaniola, 40; sermons 
of, 54 et seq.; first man 
publicly to attack slavery, 
54; sermon arouses opposi- 
tion, 54; supported by his 
Prior and order, 54; second 
sermon of, 55; threatens 
colonists with excommuni- 
cation, 56; sent to Spain to 
defend sermons, 57; con- 
verts opponent to his cause, 
58; outcome of his visit, 
58; sails to Spain with Las 
Casas, 69 

Montesinos, Reginaldo de, be- 
comes ally of Las Casas, 94 ; 
sends report of cruelties to 
Las Casas, 109 

Montezuma, the treatment of, 
345, et seq. 

Moors, the, 1 ; supply negro 
slaves, xv.; in Spain, 14; 
driven from Spain, 15 

Moslems, the, 1 

Motolinia, writes to Emperor, 
description of Las Casas , xix . ; 
called "the poor man," xx. ; 
shocked by methods of Las 
Casas, xx. 

Mure, Monsieur de la, 112 

Narvaez, Panfilo de, 47, 51, 



Narvaez, Panfilo de — Cont'd 
345; appointed commander 
under Velasquez, 43; or- 
dered to province of Cam- 
aguey, 44; expedition of, 
44 et seq.; character of, 44, 
45; cruelty, 47, 48; reply to 
Las Casas, 48; men under, 
attacked at Bayamo, 48; 
realises influence of Las 
Casas with Indians, 49; 
threatened by Las Casas, 50; 
goes to Florida, 389 

Navarette, cited, 12, 16, 22, 


Navarro, Diego, 432 

Negro slaves, xiv. ; Prince 
Henry promotes traffic in, 
xiv.: origin of traffic in, in 
colonies, xv.: supply by- 
Moors, xv.: Las Casas ad- 
vises importation of, xvi.; 
this importation sanctioned 
by Dominicans, xvi. ; Ovando 
authorised to import, 32; 
he advises that traffic in, 
cease, 33 ; Las Casas requests 
consent to importation of, 
98; Las Casas and, 98 ff.; 
request for permission for 
importation of, costs Las 
Casas dear, 99: request of 
Ovando concerning, 102; 
royal ordinance concerning, 

New Laws, the, xxx., 219,237, 
250, 256, 257; drawn up, 
24 ff.; signing of, 208; sent 
to officials in colonies, 211; 
feeling against, 233; evasion 
of, 234; Las Casas preaches 
upon, 241; create trouble in 
Ciudad Real, 243: auditor 
sent to enforce, 259; abro- 
gated, 269 

New Spain, 269: knowledge of 
Las Casas of, 233; record 
of cruelties in, 341 et seq. 

New Toledo, founded, 158; 
discontent at, 160; Las 
Casas arrives at, 160; Ocam- 
po leaves, 161 

Nicaragua, 183, 298; Las Casas 
in, 183; Las Casas again in, 
188: letter from colonists 
in, to Emperor, 233; cruel- 
ties practised in, 337 et seq. 

Nicaragua, Bishop of, see Oso- 

Nigoroto, the repayment for 
the kindness of, 379 

Ninth Remedy, the, cited, 7 

Nizza, Fray Marcus de, state- 
ment of, concerning cruelties 
during conquest of Peru, 397 
et seq. 

Nuevas Leyes, see New Laws 

Nugget of gold found, great, 
31 ; lost at sea, 34 

Nuyta, Alonso Sanchez, 416 


Oaxaca, Bishop of, 273 

Ocampo, Gonzalez de, 156, 
158, 159, 160; sent to pun- 
ish Indians, 154; meeting 
with Las Casas, 154; refuses 
to acknowledge rights of 
Las Casas, 155; expected to 
bring slaves to Hispaniola, 
157; has Gonzalez mur- 
dered, 157; captures slaves, 
158; returns to Hispaniola, 

Ojeda, Alonso de, 45, 152 ff., 
156, 1 57; causes trouble, 152; 
enrages cacique Gonzalez, 
153; death of, 154 

Olmedo, 166 

Order of Calatrava, 9; see 

Order of St. Dominic, see Do- 

Ortiz, Bartolome, 229 

Osorio, Don Diego Alvarez, 
instructed to establish Do- 
minican convents, 185 

Ovando, Don Nicolas de, 34; 
opinion of, on Indians, xvi. ; 
Las Casas makes first voyage 
with, 8; commendador de 
Lares, 8; character of, 9; 
commander of Order of Cala- 

4 66 


Ovando, etc. — Continued 
trava, 9; appointed Gover- 
nor of Hispaniola, 9, 30; 
sails for Hispaniola, 9, 10; 
arrives, n; his arrival a 
great event, 3 1 ; instructions 
to, 32; authorised to import 
negro slaves, 32; advises 
that negro slave traffic be 
stopped, 33; restores prop- 
erty confiscated by Boba- 
dilla, 33; executes Cocu- 
bano, 35; the mercy of, 35, 
36; desperate state of colo- 
nists during his governor- 
ship, 37; complains of deser- 
tion of Indians, 39; at La 
Vega, 40 ; royal ordinance 
to, concerning negro slavery, 
102; request concerning ne- 
gro slaves, 102 

Oviedo, Gonzalez Fernando 
de, condemns opinions of 
Las Casas, 134 

Padilla, Don Garcia de, 109, 
129; member of India Coun- 
cil, in, 128; cited, 195 

Panama, 185; Audiencia of the 
Confines removed from, 304 

Panuco, 298; arrival of de 
Guzman in, 358 

Para, Fray Domingo de la, 
celebrates obsequies of Las 
Casas, 307 

Pardo, Pedro de, quoted, 267 

Paria, 121 ; grant of land near, 
to Las Casas, 151; descrip- 
tion of events which wrecked 
colony of Las Casas at, 374 
et seq. 

Paris, treachery to the Indian 
chief, 336 ff. 

Passamonte, treasurer, 7 1 ; pres- 
ent at sermon of Montesinos, 

Pavia, Columbus at, 12, see 

Pearl Coast, the, 152 et seq., 

374 et seq.; convent on, 152 
Pearl fishing, description of, 


Pedro Don, assists Las Casas 
in converting Indians, 202 

Penalosa, Francisco de, uncle 
of Las Casas, 7 

Pentecost, feast of, 59; Las 
Casas preconised on, 213 

Perera, Canon Juan, left in 
authority at Ciudad Real, 
258; named by Las Casas as 
confessor, 265 ; remains loyal 
to Las Casas, 271; accom- 
panies Las Casas to Mexico, 
271; named by Las Casas 
Vicar-General, 276 

Peru, 182, 186, 189; Las Casas 
starts for, 183; arrives in, 
184; leaves, 184; centre of 
action of Las Casas upon, 
187; journey of Las Casas 
to, frustrated, 188; discovery 
of, 394; cruelties practised 
during the conquest of, 394, 
et seq. 

Peruvians, treatise on, writ- 
ten, 304 

Philip II., 304; Brevissima Re- 
lation dedicated to, 208; let- 
ter to, 222; see Philip, Prince 

Philip, Prince, 177, 232, 233, 
255; letters of Las Casas to, 
215 et seq.; attempts to 
prejudice, against Las Casas, 
277; marriage of, with Mary 
Tudor, 301; see Philip II. 

Philippa, Queen, xiv. 

Picardy, 96 

Pizarro, Francisco, 182, 305, 
394; discovery of Peru by, 
181; receives royal cedula 
from Las Casas, 184 

Plasencia, 73; Las Casas goes 
to King at, 69 

Popayan, province of, devas- 
tation of, 408 

Portugal, xiv., xvi., 29; slaves 
in xiv., xv. 

Portugal, Prince Henry of, 
promotes slave expeditions, 



Portuguese, 102; negro slaves 
brought to Hispaniola by, 

Preachers, Court, see Court 

Prescott, quoted, 209 

Procurator-General, 86; see 
Las Casas 

Protector-General, 86, see 
Las Casas 

Puerto de Caballos, 214, 215, 

Puerto de Plata, Las Casas in, 

Puerto Rico, 101, 155, 166; 
Columbus visits, 24; Jerony- 
mite commission stops at, 
87; Las Casas and his 
colonists reach, 152; news 
of massacre reaches Las 
Casas at, 154; see San Juan 


Quacaqualco, 214, 215, 218 

Quadra, Juan de, 228 

Quevedo, Fray Juan, first 
Bishop of Darien, 140; new 
opponent to Las Casas, 140; 
suspected of being in pay of 
Velasquez, 1 40 ; meeting with 
Las Casas, 141; controversy 
over wheat, 141, 142; debate 
before King with Las Casas 
143 et seq.; speech of, 145; 
converted to cause of Las 
Casas, 147 ff.; death of, 148; 
see Darien 

Quiche, Fray Luis, first white 
man to penetrate country of, 
195; his journey, 195 ff. 

Quiche, Indians, expedition of 
Las Casas among the, 189 
et seq. 

Quinones, Pedro Solano de, 418 

Quintana, 178; cited, 84, 179; 
quoted, 294 

Quintanilla, Alonso de, treas- 
urer of the royal household, 

Quito, province of, 409 

Rabinal, 202; village founded 

at, 199; Fray Luis joins Las 
Casas at, 199 

Rayon, Sefior Jose Sancho, 
co-editor of Hist. General, 

Realeio, port of, 183 ; Las Casas 
delayed at, 184; Las Cases 
returns to, 185; Fray Luis 
and Las Casas embark for 
Peru from, 188 

Rebellion, premium on, 38 

Reginaldo, Fray, see Monte- 

Rello, recruits from estate of, 

Remesal, cited, 3, 176, 179, 
187, 190, 193, 197, 201, 263, 
268, 307; quoted, 250 

Remigio, Fray, teacher of ca- 
cique Enrique, 178 

Renteria, Pedro de la, close 
friend of Las Casas, 51; 
alcalde in Cuba, 52; receives 
repartimiento , 52 ; arrives 
at convictions of Las Casas, 
63 ; returns to Cuba, 64 ; 
realises upon property to 
send Las Casas to Spain, 

Repartimientos, 26, 82, germ 
of the, 25; granted to ad- 
herents of Roldan, 2 7 ; second 
stage of, system, 27; given 
to Las Casas, 50; conscience 
of Las Casas not yet awak- 
ened concerning, 51 ; granted 
to Renteria, 52; Conchillos 
and Bishop of Burgos in 
favour of, 68; suppression 
of, 79; new laws concerning, 
79; decision of court preach- 
ers upon, 130; contrary to 
commands of Queen Isa- 
bella, 283 
Ribera, Don Antonio, 301 
Rio della Plata, discovery of, 
392 ; cruelties practised in, 

Rio de San Juan, 409 
Rio del Sol, natives of, 19 
Robertson, cited, 99 
Rogel, Juan, sent as auditor to 



Rogel , Juan — Continued 
Ciudad Real, 269; received 
by Las Casas, 270 

Roman rebellion, 9, 26 et seq. 

Roman, Fray Francisco, re- 
port of, 109 

Rome, 278; Las Casas pre- 
conised in, 213 

Royal College of Heralds, 3, 4 

Royal India Council, see India 

Royal Ordinances, 432 et seq.; 
to the India house, 433, 434; 
to Las Casas, 433, 434, 436, 
438; to Bishop Marroquin, 
439; to Las Casas, 440, 441; 
to the alcaldes, etc., within 
the boundaries of the bishop- 
ric of Chiapa, 441; to the 
officials of Higueras and 
Cape of Honduras, 443; to 
the officials in Guatemala, 
445; to the officials in New 
Spain, 447 ; to the subjects in 
Ciudad Real, 447; to the 
Dean of Chiapa, 448; to the 
Audiencia of the Confines, 
449; to the Chancellery of 
the Confines, 449; to the 
Audiencia and the Chancel- 
lery of the Confines, 450 

Rubios, Dr. Palacios, 78 jf. t 
80, 8^, 87 ff.; confers with 
Ximenez, 78; draws up in- 
structions for Zuazo, 87 

Saco, cited, 102 
Sailler, Jerome, receives con- 
cession in Venezuela, 383; 
cruelties of, 384 et seq. 
St. Dominic, see Dominicans 
St. Jeronimo, Prior of, 82 
Salamanca, Fray Miguel de, 7, 
94; one of the court preach- 
ers, 124; draws up conclu- 
sions of court preachers, 125; 
speech of, 126 
Salamanca, University of, Las 
Casas educated at, 4 

Salmeron, Gregorio Lopez y, 
214, 221 

Salvage, Jean, 98, 10 1, 108, 
115; held office of Grand 
Chancellor, 95; influence of, 
with King, 95; Las Casas 
applies to, 96; openly be- 
friends Las Casas, 96; Las 
Casas lays report of Roman 
before, 109; receives Las 
Casas with joy, 109; death 
of, no; see Flemings 

Salucchi, cited, 7 

Salmano, Juan de, 214, 221, 

Sanchez, Alonzo, 417 

San Domingo, 43, 65, 101, 170, 
182, 187, 214, 275; nugget 
of gold found near, 3 1 ; 
Cocubano hanged at, 35; 
Montesinos preaches in, 54; 
Las Casas meets Cordoba in, 
68; request for negro slaves 
by Columbus at, 98; un- 
welcome arrival of Las Casas 
at, 156; hatred of Las Casas 
at, 156; Las Casas bankrupt 
at, 174; Las Casas cordially 
received at, by Cerrato, 186; 
Las Casas brings cacique 
Enrique to, 187; reception 
of Las Casas in, 232 

San Domingo, Bishop of, see 
Fuenleal, Don Sebastian de 

Sandoval, Francisco Tello de, 
sent as Visitor-General to 
New Spain, 269; summons 
Las Casas to Mexico, 270; 
reproves Las Casas, 271 

San Est6ban, Prior of, 94 

San Gregorio, College of, 212; 
Las Casas takes permanent 
residence in, 294; Las Casas 
buried in (?), 307 

San Juan, 86, 101, 328, 389; 
see Puerto Rico 

San Juan, Rio de, 409 

San Miguel, Fray Francisco 
de, made prior, 182 

San Salvador, the, Las Casas 
sails on, 220; voyage of, 231 

Santa Catalina, meetings of 



Santa Catalina — Continued 
Las Casas and court preach- 
ers at, 124 

Santa Maria de la Rabida, 
Prior of, 14 

Santa Maria, Vincente de, see 

Santa Marta, 389; grant of 
land to Las Casas near, 151, 
cruelties of de Lerma in, 

370 et seq. 

Santa Marta, Bishop of, quoted 

371 #', T • -, 
Santangel, Luis de, 15 

Santiago de Guatemala, brief 
story of Las Casas at, 183 

Santiago de los Caballeros, 
195; convent established at, 
by Las Casas, 188; friars left 
at, by Las Casas, 188 

Santo Domingo, Fray Bernardo 
de, arrives at Hispaniola, 40 

Santo Domingo, see San Do- 

Santo Tomas, Fray Domingo 
de, joint letter of, with Las 
Casas, 303 

Selvagio, see Salvage 

Sepulveda, Gines de, most 
formidable adversary of Las 
Casas, xxi.; character of, 
xxi.; his description of Las 
Casas, 6; leader of opposi- 
tion to, 269; career of, 285 ff.; 
writes Democrates II., 286; 
writes Apologia to Demo- 
crates II., 286; influence of 
Las Casas prevents publi- 
cation of Democrates II., 
286 -ff.; chosen antagonist 
to Las Casas, 286; reproved 
by Bishop of Sergovia, 286; 
has Democrates II. , published 
in Rome, 287 ; debate of, with 
Las Casas, 288 et seq.; his 
reasons for warring upon the 
Indians, 288; "twelve objec- 
tions" of, 289; formal vote 
of judges in favour of, 292, 
cited, 6 

Sergoria, Bishop of, 287; repri- 
mands Sepulveda, 286 

Seville, xxvi., 4, 7, 41, 85, 98, 
109, 116, 224; slaves in, 
xv., 103 ; Brevissima Relacion 
published in, xxv.; ancestors 
of Las Casas in, 1 ff.; native 
city of Las Casas, 2 ; Queen 
Isabella's proclamation at, 
concerning slavery, 2 7 ; Mon- 
tesinos and Las Casas arrive 
at, 69; Las Casas returns 
to 73; negro slaves sold in, 
103; recruits gathered in, 
117; royal ordinance upon 
slavery proclaimed at, 204; 
"Eighth Remedy," pub- 
lished at, 205 ; Las Casas con- 
secrated in, 213 

Seville, Archbishop of, see 

Seville, Chamber of Commerce 
in, 101 

Slavery, v., et seq., 98 jf.^ 237; 
early history of, xiii.; in 
Spain, xiv. ff., 219; pro- 
moted by Prince Henry, 
xiv.; in England, xiv.; re- 
vival of, xiv. ; extent of, xvii. ; 
Queen Isabella's attitude 
toward, 6, 24, 27, 32; slaves 
brought to Spain by Colum- 
bus, 6; Las Casas as slave- 
owner, 6, 34; Columbus and, 
6, et seq.; beginning of, in 
America, 24 et seq.; Indian 
slaves sent to Spain, 25; 
slaves freed by Queen Isa- 
bella, 27 ff.; distinctions in 
proclamation concerning, 28 ; 
orders of Queen Isabella 
concerning, 32; increase of 
during governorship of 
Ovando, 34; Indians stirred 
to revolt that slaves may 
be taken, 38 ; Montesinos 
first man in America to at- 
tack, 54; controversy, 57 ff.; 
Laws of Burgos and, 58; 
Las Casas takes active cam- 
paign against, 59; Rentiera's 
opinion on, 63 ; Bernardo 
begins crusade against, in 
Cuba, 65; Archbishop of 



Slavery — Continued 

Seville enlisted against, 69; 
Las Casas talks to King 
about, 70; Ximenez'sopinion 
upon ethics of, 84 ff.; Ocam- 
po's expedition for slaves, 
152 ff.; arrival of slave car- 
go at Hispaniola, 158; New 
Laws concerning, 206; in 
Seville, 219; address friars in 
Ciudad Real, on, 249; slaves 
owned by Maldonado, 256; 
attitude of Sepulveda to- 
ward, of Indians, 269; Las 
Casas brings, of, before Mexi- 
can Synod, 275; horrors of, 
described, 297 ff.; see negro 

Solano, Fray Juan, made Bish- 
op of Cuzco, 212 

Solano, the widow, 235 

Solia, Juan Diaz de, 392 

Sosa, Lopede, sent as Governor 
to Darien, 113 

Soto, Hernando de, appointed 
Governor of Florida, 389 

Soto, Francisco de, 171; ap- 
pointed captain by Las 
Casas, 166; disobeys Las 
Casas, 167; wounded, 168; 
death of, 169 

Spanish colonies, compari- 
son of, with English, viii. 
et seq. 

Spanish Livy, the, see Sepul- 

Talavera, Fray Hernando de, 
confessor to Queen Isabella, 

Tapia, Pedro de, 433 
Taxes upon Indians, 25 
Teatro Mexicano, xxxi. 
Tellez, Alonso, 132 
Terminos, island of, Las Casas 

lands at, 240 
Testa, Gaspar, receives as 

notary, will of Las Casas, 


"Thirty Propositions," The, 
objections to, 136 ff., 279 ff.; 
quoted, 7 
Thomastic doctrine, the, 5 
Tierra de Guerra, see Land of 

of War, and Tuzulatlan 
Tlascala, Bishop of, 198, 273 
Tobar, Francisco Garcia, 422 
Toledo, 216; Las Casas goes to, 
213; lodgings provided for 
Las Casas in, 303 
Toledo, Bishop of. see Xim- 

enez, see Mendoza. 
Toledo, Dona, Maria de, 220 
Tomas, Fray Domingo de, 303 
Torquemada, cited, 180 
Torre, Fray Tomas de la, 271 ; 
announces friars' resolution 
to leave Ciudad Real, 248; 
warns servant of Las Casas, 
260; appointed confessor, 
Torres, Antonio de, commander 
under Ovando, 11; receives 
first report of Columbus, 23 
Torres, Bishop of, assists at 
consecration of Las Casas, 
Tortosa, Cardinal of, 10 1 
Tortures inflicted upon Indi- 
ans, 318^ seq. 
Triana, birthplace of Las Casas, 
2; street named for Las 
Casas, 2 
Trinidad, atrocities in, 113 
Trujillo, Bishop of, assists at 
consecration of Las Casas, 
Trujillos, port of, 186 
Truxillo, Sebastian, printer of, 

Brevissima Relacion, 414 
Tuzulatlan, province of, 191 
et seq., 197, 200; Las Casas 
goes to, 191; independence 
of, granted, 203 ; name 
changed to Vera Paz, 278; 
see Land of War 


University of Salamanca, see 



Utlatua, see Quiche 
Utrecht, Cardinal Adrian of, see 


Vadillo, Pedro, 178 
Valdivieso, Fray Antonio de, 
shares opinions of Las Casas, 


Valencia, 211; Las Casas com- 
pletes Brevissima Relacion 
in, 208 

Valenzuela, 178 

Valladolid, 108, 212, 224, 276, 
307; council at, 205; New 
Laws signed at, 208; Las 
Casas goes to, 277; Demo- 
crates II., written at, 286; 
debate between Sepulveda 
and Las Casas at, 2 89 ; Las 
Casas takes up residence in, 
294; where India Council 
sat, 295; Las Casas often 
absent from, 303 

Valverde, Fray Vincente de, 
advises return of Las Casas 
to Mexico, 184 

Vargas, Licentiate, 132 

Vega, Conception de la, Vice- 
roy at, 40 ; Dominicans go to, 
40; Diego Columbus in, 42 

Vega, Hernando de la, mem- 
ber of the India Council 1 1 1 

Velasquez, Diego, 43, 50, 52, 
63, 64, 297, 345; appointed 
commander of Cuban expe- 
dition, 43; sends for Las 
Casas, 43 ; bride of, 43 ; mar- 
riage of, 43 ; sends Narvaez to 
Camaguey, 44; joins expe- 
dition of Narvaez, 51; death 
of wife of, 51; Las Casas 
gives up slaves to, 61; as- 
tounded at new doctrine 
of Las Casas, 62; receives 
Dominican friars with satis- 
faction, 65; duped by Las 
Casas, 67; warns powers in 
Spain against Las Casas, 71 ; 
supposed to have bribed 
Quevedo, 140 

Velasquez, Gre., 214, 221 

Venetians, the, 137 
Venezuela, conceded to some 

Germans, 298, 383 
Vera Cruz, Las Casas embarks 

from, for Spain on last voy- 
age, 276 
Vera Paz, see Tuzulatlan 
Viceroy, see Ovando 
Viguera, Gregorio de, 219 
Villabra, Fray Alonso de, 

address on slavery, 249; 

appointed confessor by Las 

Casas, 276 
Villafuerte, Rodriguez de, 246 
Vincente, Fray, see Ferrer 
Vincente de Santa Maria, see 

Viscount of Limoges, Guillen, 1 


Xagua, town of, founded, 51 
Xalisco, De Guzman in, 360 

Xaragua, description of, 324 

Xevres, see Croy 

Ximenez, Cardinal Cisnerosde, 
74 ff-, 89, 97, 108, 130, 304; 
appointed Regent, 74 ; career 
of, 74 ff.; nominally succeed- 
ed by Adrian, 75; feeling of 
people toward, 76 ; Las Casas 
submits report to, 78; read- 
ing of Laws of Burgos before, 
7 9 ; appoints Jeronymite com- 
mission, 81 ff.; falls ill, 83; 
orders of, to Jeronymite com- 
mission, 8^ ff.; Las Casas 
takes leave of, 87; com- 
plaints to, 93 ; letter to, 
from monks in Hispaniola, 
93 ; falls ill, poison hinted at, 
93 ; embarrassed by Flemish 
influence upon King, 93 ; in- 
fluenced against Las Casas, 
94; dismissed by Charles, 94; 
death of, 94; proposal of 
Las Casas to, 99; Las Casas 
accused of deceiving, 137; 
see Cisneros 

Yucatan, grant of, 97, 256, 



Yucatan — Continued 

298; establishment of hacien- 
das in, 255; cruelties of 
Montejo in, 362 et seq. 

Yuyapari River, cruelties of 
De Lerma on the, 383 


Zacharias, quoted, 362 
Zapata, licentiate, 78; ordered 

to sign papers of Zuazo, 87; 

member of Indian Council, 


Zaragoza, no, 118; Las Casas 
follows count to, 109; delay 
of Las Casas at, 109; court 
at, 109 

Zuazo, licentiate of Seville, 
85 jf., 92; sent with Jerony- 
mite commission, 85 ; arrival 
of, in Hispaniola, 92 

Zumarraga, Fray Juan, visits 
Spain, 180 

Zuniga, cited, 3 

Zuniga, Don Juan, Las Casas's 
memorial sent to, 205 

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Letters of Cortes 

The Five Letters of Relation from Fernando Cortes 
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